Evenepoel safely in Vuelta lead after Roglic withdraws

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ARACENA, Spain — Remco Evenepoel safely kept his Spanish Vuelta lead after three-time defending champion Primoz Roglic withdrew ahead of Stage 17 because of injuries.

Rigoberto Uran, the 35-year-old Colombian from team EF Education-EasyPost, prevailed on the final climb to win the stage and complete his treble of Grand Tour victories after previous stage triumphs in the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.

“I had been chasing it for many years,” Uran said. “When you already have victories in the Giro and in the Tour, and now in La Vuelta, as a rider for three-week events, it gives me a lot of happiness. Today is a very special day for me.”

He crossed the line two seconds ahead of Quentin Pacher and Jesus Herrada. Marc Soler was 15 seconds back in fourth place.

Roglic didn’t start after not recovering from his injuries sustained in a crash 75 meters (82 yards) from the finish line while going for the victory in Stage 16. The Slovenian from team Jumbo-Visma was seeking an unprecedented fourth straight Vuelta title.

Evenepoel finished in the group of riders who crossed the line five minutes behind Uran. The Belgian cyclist from team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl maintained a lead of more than two minutes over Enric Mas of team Movistar. Juan Ayuso was nearly five minutes back in third place.

“I think the race is as hard to control as it was with Primoz,” Evenepoel said. “But of course, on a finish like this, Primoz is a really explosive guy. I think now there is less danger from attacks like this because Enric is a bit less explosive than Primoz. I think that’s the main difference but that doesn’t make it easier, not at all.”

Roglic was 1 minute, 26 seconds behind Evenepoel before withdrawing.

“I think Enric tried to see how my legs were today but I could respond very well,” Evenepoel said. “The team brought me in a good position to the final climb. The speed was really high. It wasn’t an easy finish at all.”

Riders will face a mountain stage with three major ascents on the way to another unprecedented summit finish at the Alto de Piornal.

The three-week race finishes in Madrid.

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.”