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.”

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.”

Bilbao wins Tour Down Under Stage 3, Vine leads overall

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ADELAIDE, Australia – Pello Bilbao of Spain won the challenging third stage of the Tour Down Under, while Jay Vine – who was in third place – took a 15-second lead on general classification.

Stage 3, which favored climbers over sprinters, was decided on the short but steep Corkscrew ascent not far from the finish.

Bilbao took part in a breakaway with Britain’s Simon Yates and Vine on the way up the final climb, stayed with them on the descent and came off Vine’s wheel to cross the finish line ahead of Yates.

Australia’s Rohan Dennis, who held a three-second lead on general classification after winning the second stage Thursday, was held up in a crash before the final climb and couldn’t rejoin the leaders.

The 116.8-kilometer (72.5-mile) stage between the suburbs of Norwood and Campbelltown through the Adelaide Hills featured three of the toughest ascents on the tour at Norwood Summit, Checker Hill and, just before the finish, on the notorious Corkscrew which has a gradient as steep as 24%.

The first climb came soon after the start and allowed an early breakaway. Fabio Felline of Italy and Mikkel Honore of Denmark took the chance to put an early gap on the peloton.

They were caught by the peloton after the second climb and the peloton stayed together until the sharp and narrow ascent of the Corkscrew where Vine and Yates first went away. Bilbao, who rides for Team Bahrain Victorious, set out boldly to catch them and showed his proven stage-winning ability. He already has won two stages on the Giro d’Italia.

“Yesterday we were a bit disappointed because the race didn’t go as we expected,” Bilbao said. “Today this was a good day for me, short with an explosive peak and also with a sharp descent to the finish line.

“I had some difficulties to join Yates and Vine. In the last 300 meters I knew it was going to be a bit easier and I just did my sprint and I knew I was going to have good possibilities. They were looking at the overall and I was looking at having my best sprint.”

The race continues with the fourth stage Saturday before finishing Sunday atop 710-meter (2,329-foot) Mount Lofty.