Stoffel Vandoorne on his recent victory and future in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

Stoffel Vandoorne is gearing up for the rest of the season and discussing his racing future. (Supplied)
Stoffel Vandoorne is gearing up for the rest of the season and discussing his racing future. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 May 2022

Stoffel Vandoorne on his recent victory and future in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

Stoffel Vandoorne on his recent victory and future in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship
  • Mercedes driver stormed to the top of the driver standings with a victory at the Monaco E-Prix

RIYADH: Stoffel Vandoorne is gearing up for the rest of the season and discussing his racing future after the Mercedes driver stormed to the top of the driver standings with a victory at the Monaco E-Prix, where he finished ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne in second and Mitch Evans in third. 

The Monaco race weekend was a successful one for the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team, with Vandoorne claiming his first win of the season, and Nyck de Vries securing further points and finishing in 10th place, giving the team a clear lead in the team championship with 120 points.

1. Victory in Monaco must have been special. Can you let us know more about your experience winning in Monaco compared with the usual races?

Monaco races are special in any series and in any category. I’ve raced here in the past for a couple of different series, such as the World Series by Renault GP2, and Formula 1 as well. I won in the GP2 in 2015, which was quite a special feeling as well.

Last weekend was my first win in Formula E, which was also my first one of this season, which makes it a very special one. I think this is definitely a race that everyone wants to have in their racing career, with all the hype around it as well as the circuit’s history. I was obviously extremely very happy and so was everyone in the team.

2. What are your feelings on the upcoming race in Berlin? How do you like the Berlin track and what are your experiences so far there?

Berlin is a home race for us, and I’m looking forward to being back on track. 

Berlin historically has been quite good to us. It’s where I had my first victory in Formula E. It’s also a very particular one. Maybe it’s because of the way the track is over there with the concrete — it’s on an old airfield. The concrete is very abrasive and aggressive, which means we need to maneuver carefully and get the car in at the right window to be able to perform there. Though we’ve had some good races, we have also had some races where we have struggled a little. It’s a challenging race, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s a track that suits me as well, and hopefully we manage to get it right again.

3. Are there any tracks more suited to Mercedes in the rest of the season?

When you look at all the circuits that we have to race in, there are certain circuits where our performance has been stronger and yet other circuits where we have struggled. The championship is a bit different now with the different qualification format. It provides a little more opportunity to equalize the field and to play at the front.

I don’t really know if there are any tracks in particular that suit us. It’s just the nature of the championship and the competition being so intense, that if you miss out by a tiny bit, it’s very easy to find yourself on the back foot. I believe it’s all about maximizing every weekend and gain an edge to fight at the forefront on any circuit.

4. How important is it in the first half of a race to hold back and conserve energy?

In the past few days, we’ve seen the drivers who hold back end up winning.

It’s always a difficult balance to make obviously, because in an ideal situation you don’t want to fight too much. But when you’re in the top position, you also don’t want to lose out on that position, requiring you to strike a very delicate balance. 

For example, in Rome when I was leading the race and competing with Robin, we ended up wasting energy and then Mitch came through with the energy. I think it’s just the nature of the championship right now, where it’s so competitive, and it’s more about being efficient initially. 

5. Since Mercedes is going to retire from Formula E, do you believe you will be part of the team’s future plans once the season is over?

There’s still nothing confirmed on the team’s side, but I think a lot of people know regarding what’s coming. From my side, I would say that there is a lot to analyze in terms of what the best and most competitive package will be, and there are quite a few opportunities out there.

In the end, I have to decide what is going to be the best for my future and what is going to get me the most competitive package in order for me to be able to continue racing and winning the races, which is the most important thing for me.

6. Coming back to Monaco, in recent times there was some discussion that Monaco should not be in the calendar anymore. What is your take on this, and could you please compare a little bit between Formula E and Formula 1?

I don’t know if I should be involved in a discussion on whether Monaco should stay on in the calendar or not because, ultimately, it’s not in my power. Though the hype and the iconic nature of the event make it a great race and a great experience. Compared to Formula 1, I believe Formula E is better as in Formula 1, overtaking abilities are so limited and there’s not as much action. This year, Formula E has been quite a good race, with a lot of overtaking at the front and a lot of changes for the lead. We had a great race here last year as well.

7. Are you thinking about winning the championship this season, or do you think it’s still too early to say?

It is still way too early, though we are almost halfway through. In Formula E, things can change very quickly and turn around quite drastically, so I’m not really focusing on being the championship lead at the moment and am just taking it race by race, which is what I’ve been doing since the start of the year. 

The key is to just be consistent, which will also enable me to score the points at every race. This is my main focus at the moment, and we’ll see where we end up later. 

8. I know a lot of people in the media say that last year you drove well enough to be a world champion and it was only bad luck that prevented you from winning the title. Do you think last year you were good enough to be world champion, and is that driving you this year?

Yes, I think so. Last year was obviously quite a random season in terms of interpreting what happened. There were definitely a couple of occasions where I had my share of bad luck and lost out on big points during the default group qualifying formats. One of them was in Valencia, where I qualified on pole, but then was disqualified, and there was the other race in Rome where Lucas had a problem, and both myself and Nyck were out of the race. This also happened in Rome, where I was leading the race and then got taken out. If you look at the gap in the end, I didn’t really need that much to just jump to the top of the tables.

This year, I want to leave no stone unturned, as I just want to make sure that I do everything right from my side and the things I have under my control. 

9. You drove well in Rome also. Can you tell us about your team dynamics?

We all have a very good relationship with each other and I wouldn’t say that anything has changed us, though I think Nyck is just going through a bit of a rough patch. As it’s such a competitive championship, as soon as you’re not trying hard enough to put all of the little pieces together, it’s very likely to affect your standings a little bit. I think Nyck has got the speed; he’s got everything he needs to be fighting at the front again. I think he’s just going through a little bit of a tricky phase, but I’m convinced he will turn things around and strike back in his own way.

10. Considering the success you have had in Formula E in recent years, are you happy to be a part of this championship?

Yes, of course. It is now my fourth season and I have been transferred to Mercedes since, and I think we’ve had a pretty successful time together so far. I think this championship is one of the most challenging in terms of the drivers and how close the competition is. As a race car driver, you want to be in a very competitive championship because when you do well, it is very rewarding and gives you the best feeling. 

11. Regarding the Gen3, what are the features that you like the most and what do you like aesthetically?

Well, there are always changes to the rules, no matter what series it is, and it’s always quite interesting because the cars look very different. The Gen3 is quite a big upgrade on the technical side, with a lot more power. I think that some of the best things about the car is its performance, the handling and the feeling of the car due to the reduction in weight, which I think will be very noticeable to us drivers and will help improve the handling, as well as the ability, of the car. I believe the front region is also probably going to change a lot.

I’m looking forward to trying it out, and although we are a couple of months away, I think we’ll get there quite quickly. It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to trying it out and experiencing the car’s performance for myself. 

12. Will you be racing at Formula E next year? If yes, what team will you be with?

I want to be in Formula E next year, and that is my mindset for where I want to be in the future. Like I said before, there are a lot of changes happening within our own team at the moment, and the most important thing is to have a competitive package and a competitive car that will enable me to fight for victories and championships. 

13. Do you think that the entry experience in the category is important, or is the fact that everyone is starting from zero an advantage for the less experienced drivers?

In Formula E, the experience is always important, though the fundamentals of it and the way you drive the car will be unchanged on the most part. 

The new rules level out the field a little bit. And I think it might be a little easier for the less experienced drivers to get up to speed and not have that delay, as there are so many new things that we have to learn about, though I still do think that experienced drivers have a bit more of an advantage due to experience.

14. Mercedes joined Formula E a couple of years ago and managed to win the championship last season. How has the team evolved in that time from a technical point of view?

There have been quite a lot of changes in the four years that I’ve been with the team now. Obviously the first year we were a private team and, back then, all the technical team was based in Germany for the first two seasons. This winter, it’s moved away from Germany, which again was a big change operationally as a lot of the personnel had to move from Germany

We had to rebuild a completely new simulator and it’s definitely not been an easy ride, but I think in terms of the mentality within the team, it’s been great. We have a very good team culture where everyone is accepting of mistakes, as we’re all human. This is one of the key points as to why this team is so strong.

Whether it’s from a driver’s point of view, an engineering point of view, or strategy, mistakes happen, unfortunately, but we’re not afraid to take them to the table, discuss them and learn from them. 

15. How difficult is it to swap between the simulation for Formula 1 to Formula E and back?

To be honest, right now it’s actually something that comes naturally to me. I think it was a little bit strange in the very beginning when I had just joined Formula E after leaving Formula 1. The Formula E car is unique in terms of how you have to drive it, which didn’t feel natural to me in the beginning. I had to take a little bit of time to get used to the driving style and fine tune my own driving style. As I’ve now been in Formula E for a while, the driving feels very natural to me.

16. What is the main difference in racing between you and your teammates, and what is the secret to your success?

I don’t think there are any secrets to my success. Nyck has obviously been very successful in Formula E over the years — he’s one of the reference drivers and he also won the championship last year. He’s definitely got a lot of speed, and we keep pushing each other very hard. For Nyck, things may not be going 100 percent his way at the moment, though I’m feeling quite confident and I’m going to take advantage of that to do my best each race weekend.

I want to get the best for myself and for the team, and get the best result possible. I have no doubt that they’ll be able to turn things around and that Nyck will be striking back in his own way very soon.

17. Would it be important for you to stay a Mercedes driver for a long time, or would you be open to other teams/manufacturers?

When I joined Formula E with Mercedes, I was imagining being with Mercedes and Formula E for a very long time. Obviously with the decision being made last year that they are leaving the championship, everyone knows that I have to look for a different solution for the next season. 

I would love to stay part of the Mercedes family as I have a great relationship with them and I hope to continue with them in some way or form.


NBA legends Kerr, LeBron lead sports world fury after Texas school shooting

NBA legends Kerr, LeBron lead sports world fury after Texas school shooting
Updated 9 sec ago

NBA legends Kerr, LeBron lead sports world fury after Texas school shooting

NBA legends Kerr, LeBron lead sports world fury after Texas school shooting
  • Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr in one of the most outspoken and articulate voices on social issues in American sport

LOS ANGELES: Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr made an impassioned plea for gun control in the wake of the Texas school shooting that left 18 children dead on Tuesday as the US sporting world reacted with horror over the tragedy.

Kerr refused to talk about his team’s NBA playoff match with the Dallas Mavericks in a pre-game press conference, held hours after a teenage gunman opened fire at a school in the Texas town of Uvalde.

An emotional Kerr, one of the most outspoken and articulate voices on social issues in American sport, slammed his hand on a table as he accused US lawmakers who refuse to vote on tougher gun laws of “holding the American people hostage.”

“I’m not going to talk about basketball,” Kerr told reporters shortly before Tuesday’s Eastern Conference finals game four in Dallas. “Any basketball questions don’t matter.

“Since we left shootaround, 14 children were killed 400 miles from here, and a teacher. In the last 10 days, we’ve had elderly black people killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, we’ve had Asian churchgoers killed in Southern California, now we have children murdered at school.

“When are we going to do something? I’m tired. I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there.

“I’ve had enough. We’re going to play the game tonight. But I want every person here, every person listening to this, to think about your own child or grandchild, mother or father, sister, brother.

“How would you feel if this happened to you today” asked Kerr, whose father was murdered by Islamic militants in Beirut in 1984.

Kerr reserved toughest criticism for members of the US Senate who have refused to vote on legislation that would introduce stricter background checks for gun owners.

“Fifty Senators in Washington are going to hold us hostage,” Kerr said. “Do you realize that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of political party, want background checks, universal background checks? Ninety percent of us.

“We are being held hostage by 50 Senators in Washington who refuse to even put it to a vote, despite what we the American people want.”

Kerr’s sense of outrage was shared by Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who also called for change.

“Like when is enough enough man!!!,” James wrote on Twitter. “These are kids and we keep putting them in harms way at school. Like seriously, “AT SCHOOL” where it’s suppose to be the safest!

“There simply has to be change. HAS TO BE!!“

NFL athletes also demanded change. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who grew up in Texas, wrote on Twitter: “Has to stop man...prayers to all the families in Texas.”

Dallas Cowboys defensive star DeMarcus Lawrence meanwhile tweeted directly at Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

“Who is going to stand up and DEMAND we have better security at all these schools that can’t afford it????” Lawrence wrote. “How are our tax dollars not going to those who need the most protection??!! OUR CHILDREN! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!“

Former Houston Texans icon J.J. Watt added: “Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe it. Horrifying horrifying news out of Texas.”


Doncic takes charge as Mavs down Warriors to keep series alive

Doncic takes charge as Mavs down Warriors to keep series alive
Updated 17 min 30 sec ago

Doncic takes charge as Mavs down Warriors to keep series alive

Doncic takes charge as Mavs down Warriors to keep series alive
  • After being outplayed in the first three games by the six-time NBA champions, Dallas came out with a renewed sense of purpose at the American Airlines Center

DALLAS: Luka Doncic scored 30 points as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Golden State Warriors 119-109 to keep their NBA Western Conference finals series alive on Tuesday.

The Mavericks, needing a victory to avoid a clean sweep, delivered a revived offensive performance to ensure a Game 5 in San Francisco on Thursday.

No team in the 75-year history of the NBA has ever come back from 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series.

But after Tuesday’s performance, the Mavericks have at least a lifeline to cling to as the series heads back to California with the Warriors needing just one win from three remaining games to advance to the NBA Finals.

Doncic, who has carried the scoring burden for Dallas in the three previous games, finally received scoring support from his teammates on Tuesday.

Six Dallas players finished in double figures, with Dorian Finney-Smith adding 23 points and Reggie Bullock 18.

Jalen Brunson added 15 while Maxi Kleber contributing 13 and Spencer Dinwiddie 10.

Doncic however praised the defensive performance of his teammates after a display which restricted Golden State’s leading scorer — Stephen Curry — to just 20 points.

“Our defense was amazing today,” said Doncic, who finished with 14 rebounds and nine assists.”That’s how we’ve got to play, when we play like this we’re a dangerous team.”

Asked if he felt the Mavs could still salvage a series victory, Doncic replied: “You never know. We’re going to stick together. It’s going to be tough, we know that but we have to stay together.”

After being outplayed in the first three games by the six-time NBA champions, Dallas came out with a renewed sense of purpose at the American Airlines Center.

The Mavs led by 15 points at halftime after cutting loose midway through the second quarter with a 19-2 run that propelled them into a double-digit lead.

Golden State struggled to make inroads into that deficit and were successful on only three of 16 attempts from three-point range.

The Mavs by contrast drained 11-of-23 from beyond the arc in the first half, a statistic that helped them into a 62-47 halftime lead.

The start of the second half was delayed by around 20 minutes after what appeared to be a leak from the arena roof allowed puddles of water to gather at one end of the court.

But any idea that the delay would allow the Warriors to regroup quickly evaporated as the Mavericks continued to rain in buckets, outscoring Golden State 37-23.

That left Dallas 99-70 in front heading into the fourth quarter, with Dallas seemingly cruising to victory.

The Mavs were given a scare in the final minutes of the game as the Warriors bench players suddenly trimmed the lead to just eight points.

But Doncic reasserted control and a Bullock three-pointer put Dallas 13 points clear again to secure the win.

Antetokounmpo, Doncic head All-NBA First Team

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic headed the voting for the 2021-2022 All-NBA First Team, the league said Tuesday.

Antetokounmpo, Doncic and Jokic were joined in the starting lineup by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.

Antetokounmpo topped the voting, receiving first team votes on all 100 ballots. It was the Greek star’s fourth consecutive selection to the first team.

Doncic and Jokic, meanwhile, each received 88 of the 100 votes.

Booker garnered 82 first team selections while Tatum completed the lineup with 49 votes.

There was no place for Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid, who instead found himself heading the second team lineup.

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant, Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan completed the second team lineup.


Tirana gets ready for Europa Conference League final

Tirana gets ready for Europa Conference League final
Updated 25 May 2022

Tirana gets ready for Europa Conference League final

Tirana gets ready for Europa Conference League final
  • Capacity at the National Arena is about 21,000
  • There are expected to be 650 stewards inside the stadium and thousands of police officers outside for the match

TIRANA, Albania: Tens of thousands of soccer fans are expected to visit the Albanian capital of Tirana for the Europa Conference League final between Dutch club Feyenoord and Italian team Roma on Wednesday.

Tirana Airport is preparing to welcome more than 300 flights in two days, the biggest number it has ever tried to manage. Other fans plan to land in neighboring Kosovo and Montenegro and drive to Tirana.

“Come in, come in,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, a former professional basketball player, said while addressing the tourists.

Many Italian, Dutch and other foreigners have been walking the streets of Tirana in recent days. Up to 100,000 soccer fans are expected in the city despite each club being allocated only 4,000 tickets for the inaugural final of the third-tier European tournament, which was designed to give smaller clubs a shot at a continental competition.

Capacity at the National Arena is about 21,000. There are expected to be 650 stewards inside the stadium and thousands of police officers outside for the match.

Albanian authorities have taken several precautionary steps for what they want to be a “festive day.” Wednesday was declared a public holiday, but police, health and other service employees will be working.

Both Feyenoord and Roma are storied clubs with big fan bases. Their supporters will be gathered in separate “fan zones” about one kilometer apart.

The partying has already begun, much to dismay of some locals. On Monday, residents of an apartment building in downtown Tirana threw water to hush Dutch fans drinking beer below late at night.

On Tuesday, Albanian police at the main Skanderbeg Square pushed away a small group of Italian fans who had been hurling water bottles to keep them away from Dutch fans.

“We won’t tolerate acts of violence and vandalism,” Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj said.

Downtown Tirana will be a pedestrian-only zone on Wednesday as part of measures “to organize in the most exemplary way one of the most major events that have occurred in Albania,” Interior Minister Bledi Cuci has said.

Some main roads linking Tirana to the western city of Durres or the airport will be closed and only fans with tickets or those going to fan zones will be allowed in.

The Europa Conference League trophy was put on display at Skanderbeg Square, which will also host a “fan festival” with concerts, drinks and games.

UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, picked Tirana as host in December 2020, one year after the new stadium officially opened and before any team qualified to enter the debut competition.

The inaugural final is a higher-profile match than what was envisioned by many in 2018 when UEFA decided to create the Europa Conference League. Its aim was to give more opportunities to clubs in lower-ranked countries.

An even smaller stadium — the Eden Arena in Prague — is set to host the 2023 final.


Tsitsipas survives world No. 66 Musetti in marathon five-setter as French Open clouded by Wimbledon row

Tsitsipas survives world No. 66 Musetti in marathon five-setter as French Open clouded by Wimbledon row
Updated 25 May 2022

Tsitsipas survives world No. 66 Musetti in marathon five-setter as French Open clouded by Wimbledon row

Tsitsipas survives world No. 66 Musetti in marathon five-setter as French Open clouded by Wimbledon row
  • Tsitsipas came into the tournament on the back of a successful defense of his Monte Carlo title and a runner-up spot in Madrid
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a former Australian Open runner-up and world No. 5, bid an emotional goodbye to tennis after losing in the first round to Casper Ruud

PARIS: Stefanos Tsitsipas came back from the brink to reach the French Open second round as Roland Garros was again overshadowed by the crisis engulfing Wimbledon.

Fourth seed and 2021 runner-up Tsitsipas defeated world No. 66 Lorenzo Musetti 5-7, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in a match which finished early Wednesday.

Greek star Tsitsipas triumphed as 20-year-old Musetti collapsed from the brink of a famous Paris win for the second year in succession.

Twelve months ago, the Italian took the first two sets against Novak Djokovic in the last 16 before injury forced a final set retirement.

He enjoyed a flying start when the night session first round tie started Tuesday, sweeping through the first two sets, out-hitting Tsitsipas just as he had done against Djokovic.

But then came the familiar power failure and Tsitsipas comfortably pocketed the next two sets.

Tsitsipas came into the tournament on the back of a successful defense of his Monte Carlo title and a runner-up spot in Madrid.

He was also on a season-leading 31 wins which became 32 in the decider courtesy of two more service breaks.

“It was positive and a good effort in the end. I wasn’t feeling very good in the first two sets, something was off with my game. Lorenzo wasn’t giving me any rhythm,” said the 23-year-old.

World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev eased into the second round but could not escape the shadow of Wimbledon, the Grand Slam tournament where he has been declared persona non grata.

Medvedev routed Argentina’s 103rd-ranked Facundo Bagnis 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 on the back of 35 winners.

“I love Roland Garros, especially since last year,” said Medvedev, who had lost in the opening round on his first four trips before reaching the quarter-finals in 2021. “I hope this year I can go further.”

One place he will not be going, however, is the All England Club next month after Wimbledon banned all Russian and Belarusian players in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The ATP and WTA responded by stripping the sport’s most prestigious tournament of ranking points.

One day after former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka revealed she was “leaning toward not playing” Wimbledon while defending champion Novak Djokovic said he will play despite losing 2,000 points, the controversy showed no signs of abating.

“I will go there to get my prize money, as I would for an exhibition tournament,” said Frenchman Benoit Paire after a 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 loss to Ilya Ivashka.

Claiming that “99 percent” of players want a Wimbledon with points, he added: “I’m sorry for Russia and Russians, but they are the ones causing all the trouble.”

Denis Shapovalov, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2021, said he objected both to the ban and the decision to strip the points.

“I think they could have gone with it a different way, maybe keep 50 percent like they have in the past,” said the Canadian.

The biggest loser on the women’s side will be Karolina Pliskova who will drop the 1,000 points by finishing runner-up to the now retired Ashleigh Barty in 2021.

She too wants 50 percent of the points to be retained. She intends to return to the All England Club.

“If you love the game you’re still going to go and play,” said 2017 Paris semifinalist Pliskova after making the second round by beating Tessah Andrianjafitrimo 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Russia’s Andrey Rublev, the world No. 7, described the atmosphere as “toxic” after seeing off South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in his Roland Garros opener.

Meanwhile, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a former Australian Open runner-up and world No. 5, bid an emotional goodbye to tennis after losing in the first round to Casper Ruud.

The 37-year-old Frenchman was beaten 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 7-6 (7/0) by the Norwegian eighth seed.

“I hope the world can soon find as much peace I found today. Thank you Roland Garros. Thank you Mister Tennis. I love you,” said Tsonga.

Elsewhere, 19-year-old Holger Rune of Denmark marked his main draw debut with a 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) dismissal of 14th-seeded Shapovalov who committed 53 unforced errors.

Spanish third seed Paula Badosa, a quarterfinalist last year, swept into the second round with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over French wildcard Fiona Ferro while 2018 champion.

Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, defeated Germany’s Nastasja Schunk, an 18-year-old lucky loser from qualifying, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.


Jan Hirt wins stage 16 of Giro, Richard Carapaz retains overall lead

Jan Hirt wins stage 16 of Giro, Richard Carapaz retains overall lead
Updated 25 May 2022

Jan Hirt wins stage 16 of Giro, Richard Carapaz retains overall lead

Jan Hirt wins stage 16 of Giro, Richard Carapaz retains overall lead
  • Wednesday’s 17th stage is a 168-kilometer run between Ponte di Legno and Lavarone which features two top category climbs — Vetriolo and the Menador — in the final 50km

APRICA, Italy: Czech rider Jan Hirt took the 16th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday to claim his first-ever Grand Tour win, while Richard Carapaz held on to his slender overall lead after a brutal mountain stage.

The 31-year-old Intermarche rider attacked two kilometers before the summit of the final of three huge climbs on the 202km run from Salo to Aprica and held off chaser Thymen Arensman for the win.

Hirt’s stage win was by far the biggest of his career and added to his overall victory at the Tour of Oman this year.

“When people ask me what I want to do with cycling I say that I want to win one stage on the Giro and then I can stop my career,” Hirt joked after the win.

“So now I am happy but I don’t want to stop now.”

Hirt had been chasing Lennard Kamna after the Bora-Hansgrohe rider made a run for it just before the start of the final Santa Cristina ascent.

However, he and Arensman caught Kamna within the closing 10km and Hirt then made his charge for the line in wet Aprica after wrestling with mechanical problems in the last kilometers.

“He (Kamna) had a good advantage on us and it was looking quite difficult but I had to try,” added Hirt.

“I had quite difficult moments on the stage... in the last climb I had a problem with the bike it wasn’t shifting very well, it was jumping my chain.

“I was suffering so much and had all these problems but I wanted the win so bad I held on till the end.”

Olympic road race champion Carapaz retained the pink jersey after crossing just over a minute later alongside Mikel Landa and Jai Hindley.

Carapaz responded alongside Hindley when Landa pushed out from the group of general classification contenders with 10km left.

Hindley cut Carapaz’s already slim lead to just three seconds after winning four bonus seconds on the finish line, while Joao Almeida dropped time and is now 44 seconds back in third.

Meanwhile, home hope Vincenzo Nibali has jumped from eighth to fifth place, 3mins 40sec from top spot on this last Giro.

“It was a tough day for us. I’m happy in the end I think to have only lost four seconds is OK. We managed to keep hold of the jersey which is the most important thing,” said Carapaz.

Wednesday’s 17th stage is a 168-kilometer run between Ponte di Legno and Lavarone which features two top category climbs — Vetriolo and the Menador — in the final 50km.