Team Abu Dhabi’s Al-Qemzi finishes 6th in powerboating season opener in Italy

BOLOGNA, Italy: Former champion Tadej Pogacar moved into the overall Tour de France lead on Sunday in a steamy ride to Bologna won by French rider Kevin Vauquelin.

Pogacar, who won the 2020 and 2021 Tours, attacked from the final peloton on a steep hill near the finish of the second stage as he, Jonas Vingegaard and Remco Evenepoel gained time on the day.

“Last year I was so close to getting the yellow jersey, but then I snapped,” said the 25-year-old Slovenian.

“Maybe it’s confirmation that I’m the strongest.”

“Jonas was pretty quick on my wheel but I’m glad I opened up the peloton and took some people’s time away.”

Overnight leader Romain Bardet, winner of Saturday’s opening stage, predicted he would not be able to defend the yellow jersey, which was confirmed when he crashed out on the final climb.

He led the 10-man attack as the race reached Bologna through the apricot and peach orchards of the coastal resort of Cesanatico.

Vauquelin, making his Tour debut, broke away from the remnants of a breakaway on the final hill to win solo in a crowded downtown finish line with temperatures reaching 33 °C (91 °F).

“It was painful, but I did it for myself, my family and my team,” said the 23-year-old winner, who lost 30 minutes on the opening stage.

“That’s crazy, yesterday I was at the bottom of the rankings.” But today was perfect, how crazy?’

Pogacar accelerated behind them on the steepest part of the final climb, but was immediately overshadowed by defending champion Vingegaard of Denmark.

This pair was then joined in the downhill by former Vuelta winner Evenepoel and former Giro winner Richard Carapaz.

“I made a mistake, I shouldn’t have taken Carapaza with me,” said Evenepoel.

While Carapaz led this group across the line, the official results awarded Pogacar the yellow jersey and the others at the same time.

“I managed to close the gap, but I could have done better,” said Evenepoel, who took the white jersey of the best young driver.

While the Quick Step man folded, he received a high praise from the man in yellow.

“He’s quite the driver, it wasn’t a surprise to see him get back on my wheel,” Pogacar said.

There were plenty of skull and crossbones flags on the road on Sunday in memory of former Italian rider Marco Pantani, whose 1998 Giro d’Italia and Tour de France pair Pogacar hopes to match this year.

Pantani, who faced a barrage of doping allegations throughout his career and later died aged 34 of a cocaine overdose, was born in the stage’s start city. His parents were the guests of honor that day.

After two stages with several punishing climbs, the third stage is a long but flat 231km ride from Piacenza to Turin that will have the sprint teams on alert all day.

Jasper Philipsen, the defender of the green jersey for the best sprinter, said there are nine interesting stages for the sprinters before the Tour, starting with Monday’s.

Two days after “seeing stars” and vomiting with heat illness, 39-year-old Mark Cavendish will continue his quest for a record 35th stage win.

And Mads Pedersen, Sam Bennett, Wout van Aert and Fabio Jakobsen are also expected to feature in any eventual mass sprint in the industrial city home to motoring giant Fiat and football legends Juventus.

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