Defending Vuelta champion Primoz Roglic withdraws after crash

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MADRID — Primoz Roglic’s quest to win an unprecedented fourth straight Spanish Vuelta title ended when he withdrew from the race because of a crash the day before.

The Slovenian cyclist did not start Stage 17, won by Rigoberto Uran of Colombia.

“Thank you for all the beautiful moments in this Vuelta,” Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma team wrote on Twitter. “You had ambitious plans for the final days, but sadly it isn’t meant to be.”

Roglic went down hard 75 meters (80 yards) from the finish while going for the victory in Stage 16, crossing the line with bruises and bleeding from his right shoulder, arm and leg.

The injuries did not appear serious but the team and the rider decided it was better not to continue as the race entered the tough final stages.

Roglic had been slowly reducing his gap on overall leader Remco Evenepoel, who now has a clear path to win his first ever Grand Tour race.

The 22-year-old Belgian rider from team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl had an advantage of 1 minute, 26 seconds over Roglic. He finished safely and was more than two minutes in front of Spanish rider Enric Mas of Movistar, who now is his closest challenger.

The three-week race will end after Stage 21 in Madrid. Riders will face a mountain stage with three major ascents on the way to another unprecedented summit finish at the Alto de Piornal.

The 32-year-old Roglic was trying to join Spanish rider Roberto Heras as the only cyclists to win four Vuelta titles. Heras won the race in 2000 and 2003-05. Tony Rominger and Alberto Contador are the only other riders with three Vuelta titles.

The Spanish Vuelta remains the only Grand Tour event won by Roglic, whose preparations this year were hindered by a crash at the Tour de France. The team didn’t know if he was going to participate until a couple of days before the start.

Another title contender who had to drop out of the race was Simon Yates, who last week was among the many riders who withdrew because of a positive coronavirus test.

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.”