Tour Down Under S4: Echelons can’t crack Jay Vine
Bryan Coquard wins first WorldTour race as crosswinds fracture peloton into pieces.
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WILLUNGA, Australia (VN) — High winds and even stronger pressure from Jayco-AlUla and Ineos Grenadiers couldn’t crack Jay Vine in the echelon-packed fourth stage at the Santos Tour Down Under.
Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) won by a country mile after jumping to victory as Vine kept his cool in a nervous day of racing that saw the pack fracture into pieces.
Pre-stage favorites Caleb Ewan and Michael Matthews were both caught flat-footed by the Frenchman’s surprise sprint, good for his first WorldTour victory despite winning nearly 50 times across his career.
“I have won many races, but this is the first one in the WorldTour,” Coquard said. “That was the goal for 2023, so to win it already in January is good news.”
Crosswinds buffeted the 133km circuit course Saturday along the spectacular coast road south of Adelaide, and rivals tried in vain to catch out Vine as he wore the Down Under leader’s jersey.
Vine was protected by four UAE Team Emirates teammates as Jayco-AlUla’s Luke Durbridge poured on the pressure. Others piled on as the course looped around hilly farm roads before coming in for a reduced bunch sprint.
The Santos Tour Down Under concludes Sunday with the fifth stage ending atop Mount Lofty. The pack will climb the short but steep summit five times on a circuit course above Adelaide.
“Tomorrow is a big day, but I have the whole team around me to support me,” Vine said. “I had the team around me today at all the key moments. Everyone is very motivated to be leading the first WorldTour race of the season, and we want to finish it off Sunday.”
American Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) finished safely in the front bunch to retain fourth place overall and the best young rider’s white jersey.
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