Roglic falls near Vuelta finish but gains time on Evenepoel

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TOMARES, Spain — Primoz Roglic crashed with the finish line in sight in the Spanish Vuelta but still gained ground on Remco Evenepoel after the overall leader had a puncture a few kilometers from the end.

Neither rider lost time because of their mishaps as they benefitted from a 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) protection zone at the end of the stage.

Roglic was bleeding from his right shoulder, arm, and leg as he crossed the line in Stage 16. The three-time defending champion was going for the victory but went down hard with 75 meters to go while trying to catch up to the leading breakaway group of four riders.

Mads Pedersen won the stage for his second victory with team Trek-Segafredo in this year’s Vuelta. He prevailed over Pascal Ackermann and Danny van Poppel.

“Everyone was really on the limit,” Pedersen said. “It’s a pity that (Roglic) crashed, he hasn’t been lucky this year. I hope he’s not too bad, so he can keep contending for the victory.”

Roglic, seeking an unprecedented fourth straight Vuelta title with team Jumbo-Visma, had his preparation for the final Grand Tour race of the season hindered by a crash at the Tour de France.

The Slovenian would have been at least fifth in the stage. He ended finishing 35th but was given the time of the leading group.

Evenepoel also didn’t lose time because of his puncture in the final kilometers, losing only eight seconds to Roglic, who now is 1 minute, 26 seconds back entering the decisive final stages. Enric Mas is more than two minutes behind Evenepoel in third place.

“I wanted to move up on the steep bump but my rear wheel just went off,” said Evenepoel, the Belgian rider from team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl. “I’m happy that the 3-kilometer rule exists, otherwise I would have lost a lot of time today.”

It is the 11th consecutive stage Evenepoel has held the leader’s red jersey, the longest run since Roglic took his first Vuelta win in 2019.

“I expected him to attack,” Evenepoel said of Roglic. “We all know that Primoz is really explosive so a finale like this is really made for him. That makes it even more a pity that he crashed. You never want anybody to crash.”

Riders were coming off a rest day. In Stage 17, they will face another difficult test with an unprecedented summit finish at Monasterio de Tentudia.

Australia’s Jay Vine wins Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Australia’s Jay Vine defended his overnight lead to win the Tour Down Under, the first event of the 2023 World Tour.

Simon Yates of Britain won the final stage and moved up from third to second place on overall standings. Vine came in second on the stage to secure the biggest win of his career in a stage race.

The UAE Team Emirates rider took the overall tour lead when he finished second in Stage 2 and third in Stage 3. He came into the final stage with a 15-second lead on general classification.

The 70-mile stage involved four laps of a 15.5 mile-circuit through the Adelaide Hills before finishing just beyond the summit of Mount Lofty.

Yates led the crucial attack on the ascent less than 1.2 miles from the finish, but Vine jumped onto his wheel and Australian Ben O’Connor also joined in.

O’Connor led out close to the finish line, Vine briefly passed him but Yates came over the top to claim the stage win. Vine retained his overall advantage and claimed the title in his debut appearance in the Tour Down Under.

The 27-year-old made his name in e-Sports before being signed by the UAE team after winning the academy program on the Zwift online platform. He won two stages of the Vuelta a Espana last year and the Australian Time Trial title.

“It’s pretty incredible to be standing here and wearing this jersey,” Vine said. “The way we drove that was first class. My guys were incredible.”

The final stage featured a breakaway of 13 riders but Vine’s UAE teammates led the chase by the peloton and put their rider in a position to contest the win.

Yates again rode an aggressive race but had to be happy with the stage win.

“We came Down Under with a lot of ambition. We put a lot into it and we didn’t come away with the overall but we can walk away pretty happy,” Yates said. “Obviously Jay Vine is a massive talent and the crowd will be happy with a local winner.”

France’s Coquard wins Tour Down Under Stage 4; Vine leads

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ADELAIDE, Australia — French cyclist Bryan Coquard won Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under for his first-ever World Tour win, while Australia’s Jay Vine retained the overall tour lead by 15 seconds with one stage remaining.

Coquard is a lightweight sprinter who has had 49 wins in a decade-long career but had never won on the World Tour until he cleared out near the finish to claim the 82-mile stage by a margin of about just over 100 feet.

Vine was among the leading group that shared Coquard’s winning time and who retained his lead on general classification over Britain’s Simon Yates and Germany’s Phil Bauhaus. The race concludes with Stage 5, which ends atop 2,329-foot Mount Lofty.

“It’s a long time that I’ve waited for this win, 10 years,” said Coquard, who rides for the French Cofidis team. “I never really expected and I’m very happy and relieved with this win.”

While the stage was flat and suited sprinters, it had its challenges. Cross-winds and occasional gradients made the stage difficult and confounded some riders.

After an early breakaway by Jonas Rutsch and former tour winner Daryl Impey of South Africa, the peloton broke into two groups with Vine and other tour leaders among the leading group.

The leading group stayed together around the last, sharp bend towards the finish and Coquard bided his time until his late sprint left other riders flat-footed.

“It was pretty stressful,” Vine said. “There was one point there, I thought we were going to have an easy day and I was happy, smiling, waving to families on the side of the road.

“Then, 45 kilometers in it was on and it was on until the end so it was a very hard day. There was a lot more calorie expenditure than I was planning.”