Dustin Johnson extends lead to four in WGC-Mexico Championship

Dustin Johnson in round three in Mexico

WGC-Mexico third-round leaderboard
-16 D Johnson (US); -12 R McIlroy (NI); -9 P Reed (US), P Cantlay (US), S Garcia (Spa), C Smith (Aus); -8 I Poulter (Eng), K Aphibarnrat (Tha)
Selected others: -6 T Woods (US), T Fleetwood (Eng); -5 P Casey (Eng), F Molinari (Ita); -4 L Westwood (Eng), T Hatton (Eng); -3 D Willett (Eng); +1 R Knox (Sco); +3 P Mickelson (US)

American Dustin Johnson moved four strokes ahead after three rounds of the WGC-Mexico Championship at Chapultepec.

The 34-year-old world number three, two ahead at the halfway stage, was six clear midway through day three, posting a five under 66 to reach 16 under.

Rory McIlroy remains second after a 68, mixing seven birdies with four bogeys.

Patrick Reed birdied the last three holes in a 64 and is nine under, while Tiger Woods had a four-putt in his 70 and is six under with Tommy Fleetwood.

The third member of the final group, Matt Kuchar, two off the lead overnight, had three double bogeys in a 78 to drop to two under.

Johnson sent his drive at the 367-yard par four second hole only three feet from the flag and rolled in the eagle putt.

After eight holes his lead was six following McIlroy’s third bogey of the day, but two holes later the advantage was only two.

Having gone 45 holes without a dropped shot in the tournament, the twice former champion made a double bogey at the 10th after twice hitting trees, while McIlroy rolled in a 34-foot birdie putt at nine – where he took four putts in round three – and pitched to three feet for another birdie at the next.

Johnson responded with successive birdies and added two more on the back nine, while at the last McIlroy saw a birdie chance to cut the gap to three slide past the cup.

Woods birdied the opening two holes, tapping in at the first and then pitching to two feet from 137 yards, but he double bogeyed the 15th after taking three putts from three feet, before finishing with his sixth birdie of the day.

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Dan Evans beats John Isner to reach Delray Beach final

Britain's Dan Evans

British number three Dan Evans reached the Delray Beach Open final in Florida with 3-6 6-2 6-3 win over world number nine John Isner of the USA.

The 28-year-old world number 148, who returned in April 2018 from a one-year drugs ban, is a qualifier in the event.

He fought back to beat last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist Isner, 33, in an hour and 32 minutes.

In only his second ATP final he will face an unseeded player, either Mackenzie McDonald or Radu Albot.

American McDonald, 23, is the world number 84 who beat top seed Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals.

Albot of Moldova beat Nick Kyrgios in the round of 16 and is ranked 82.

In his only previous ATP final two years ago, Evans lost at the Sydney International to Gilles Muller.

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Dylan Groenewegen seals comfortable sprint win in stage four of the Volta ao Algarve

Tadej Pogacar retains overall lead with one stage remaining

Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) produced a powerful sprint to win stage four of the Volta ao Algarve ahead of Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Jasper Philipsen (UAE Emirates).

Despite suffering from a mechanical inside the final 10 kilometres, Groenewegen managed to make it back into the peloton in time to contest the sprint, and benefited from an excellent lead-out to take the victory.

He was fourth in line going through the final corner behind a teammate and two Groupama-FDJ riders, who had lost contact with their leader Démare. The Frenchman worked his way up to second place with a long-range sprint, but Groenewegen’s head start was significant and he held on for a comfortable victory.

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates) finished safely in the bunch to retain his overall lead, although a small split in the bunch saw Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) and Wout Poels) gain two seconds, leapfrogging Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) on the GC into second and third respectively.

How it happened

A breakaway of five riders formed at the start of the stage, comprising of Oscar Pelegri (Vito-Feirense), Fabio Costa (UD Oliveirense / InOutbuild), Luis Fernandes (Ludofoods Louletano Aviludo), Nikolay Mihaylov (Efapel) and Jesus Nanclares (Miranda-Mortaguna).

They were able to build a lead over the peloton of five minutes, with Fernandes winning both of the intermediate sprint, and Pelegri the first King of the Mountains.

The gap began to fall as the sprinters’ teams took up the chase, and had been diminished to just 1-30 with 40km to go.

Mihaylov and Pelegri had struck out alone ahead of the final intermediate sprint, won by the former, but the pair were brought back on the final climb of the day roughly 20km from the finish.

A counter-attack from David Ribeiro (LA Aluminios) saw him take maximum points at the top of the climb, but he was quickly reeled in.

It was with 8km to go that Groenewegen suffered his mechanical. His Jumbo-Visma team did a fine job of rallying around him, however, and within minutes the Dutchman was back in the peloton.

They too executed an excellent lead-out while other trains floundered. Stage one winner Fabio Jakobsen was nowhere to be seen despite early work from his Deceuninck-Quick-Step team, while another pre-stage favourite Pascal Ackermann managed to finish fourth despite a lack of a lead-out from his Bora-Hansgrohe team-mates.

The Volta ao Algarve concludes tomorrow with a stage from Faro to Malhao, that culminates in an uphill finish where the outcome of the race will be decided.

Results

Volta ao Algarve 2019, stage four: Albufeira to Tavira (198.3km)

1. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, in 4-56-07
2. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
3. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates
4. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
6. Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
7. Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty Groupe-Gobert
8. Jens Debuscherre (Bel) Kausha-Alpecin
9. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
10. Jon Aberasturi (Esp) Caja Rural, all same time

General classification after stage four

1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 10-16-14
2. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb, at 29s
3. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 30s
4. Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 31s
5. David de la Cruz (Esp), at 57s
6. Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 1-08
7. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 2-12
8. Neilson Powless (USA) Jumbo-Visma, at 2-13
9. Marc Hirschi (Sui) Team Sunweb, at 2-35
10. Amaro Antunes (Por) CCC Team, at 2-43

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Dubai Tennis Championships: Belinda Bencic beats Petra Kvitova in final

Belinda Bencic

Belinda Bencic upset world number four Petra Kvitova to win the Dubai Championships, her third WTA title.

Switzerland’s Bencic, ranked 45th, beat the Czech 6-3 1-6 6-2 to claim her first WTA title since 2015.

Saturday’s victory was also the 21-year-old’s fourth in a row against a player ranked in the world’s top 10 at the tournament.

“This is amazing. I just tried to put as many balls back as possible to create pressure,” said Bencic.

“I feel great. We worked a lot on my fitness, so maybe that was the secret.”

Bencic, who lost to 28-year-old Kvitova at the Australian Open in January, started quickly and broke her rival to love in the match’s opening game before taking the first set in commanding fashion.

She faded in the second but raised herself for the decider and made the most of a number of Kvitova errors.

In an impressive run, Bencic beat Romanian world number two Simona Halep, sixth-ranked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, who is ranked ninth, on her way to the final.

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Sensational Simon Yates storms to stage four win of Ruta del Sol

Simon Yates was too strong for the peloton on stage four of the Ruta del Sol, powering away to win solo by almost 30 seconds.

A blistering attack from Simon Yates saw him power away from the peloton and breakaway on stage four of the Ruta del Sol to win comfortably, his first success of the 2019 season.

The reigning Vuelta a España champion attacked with 34km to go on the brutal stage in southern Spain, and once he distanced a select group of companions he rode clear to win by 26 seconds from a group of six riders contesting the overall general classification.

Astana’s Jakob Fugslang, second overnight, takes the leader’s jersey from Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), with Yates’s brother Adam advancing up to fifth overall, 57 seconds shy of Fugslang with just one rolling stage to come.

It means that Danish rider Fugslang is on course to win his first overall race since his Critérium du Dauphiné success in 2017.

How it happened

Being the queen stage of the race, there was a rush to get into the day’s breakaway and 13km into the 119km stage one formed and stuck, consisting of some high-profile personnel. Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) and Danny van Poppel (Team Jumbo-Visma) were joined by Carlos Barbero (Movistar), Nikolay Cherkasov (Gazprom-RusVelo), Marco Canola (Nippo Vini Fantini Faizanè) and Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF). 

>>> Simon Yates ‘not interested in Tour de France’

They were chased for over 20km by a group of four and they eventually caught on, Cyril Barthe  and Sergio Samitier of Euskadi Basque Country – Murias, Jorge Cubero (Burgos-BH) and Txomin Juaristi (Fundacion-Euskadi) teaming up to make the lead group even larger.

On the day’s second climb, Alto del Purche, the race blew up. Many of the break’s riders were unable to keep pace, their lead dropping below a minute. Back in the peloton riders dropped further back, leaving a reduced bunch of around 30 riders.

Samitier maintained his lead out front, sitting 45 seconds ahead of the peloton, but on the climb of Alto de Guejar Cierra, a long 10.1km slog, he was caught by an attack from Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Pello Bilbao (Astana).

For a short while Yates was in a group of 10 climbers, but it wasn’t long before he attacked again, going solo. On the day’s final ascent, Alto de Hazallanas, the Bury-born rider began the 16.2km climb all alone. It was a show of strength for the Mitchelton-Scott team, with Yates also working on behalf of his brother Adam who sat ninth on GC, 64 seconds off the race leader Wellens who was unable to keep pace with more natural climbers.

Yates continued to accelerate on the climb as he moved towards the summit of the snowy mountain, stretching his lead to over 40 seconds from the chase group of five that included Adam and teammate Jack Haig, as well as Ion Izagirre of Astana who was 14 seconds adrift of Wellens prior to the stage. Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Bilbao and Sergio Higuita (Fundacion-Euskadi) were also involved.

On familiar roads to him, Yates pushed further on, the chase group behind accepting the Vuelta a Espana winner’s stage win was a formality.

As the race descended into the finish in Granada, the sextet behind Yates didn’t, as some might have expected, attack one another, and they rolled into the finishing town as one.

Yates was able to sit up and celebrate a sensational win as he crossed the line, Higutia bringing up the group of six behind 26 seconds after Yates.

Fugslang goes into the last stage with a slender seven second advantage to Izagirre, but that should be enough given that stage five’s toughest sections all come in the first half of the race.

Results:

Stage four: Ruta del Sol, Armilla to Granada, 119km
1. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, in 3:01.03
2. Sergio Higuita (Col) Fundacion-Euskadi
3. Steven Kruijswik (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
4. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
5. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana
6. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Astana
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, all at 26secs
8. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
9. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, both at 1 min, 20secs
10. Hector Carretero (Esp) Movistar, at 2min, 51 secs

General classification after stage four:
1. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 13:43.41
2. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana, at 7secs
3. Steven Kruijswik (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 11secs
4. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Astana, at 21secs
5. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 57secs
6. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1:08
7. Sergio Higuita (Col) Fundacion-Euskadi, at 1:12
8. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo, at 1:43
9. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 2:53
10. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida, at 3:41

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Fernando Gaviria ‘relaxed and enjoying every race’ after move to UAE Team Emirates

The Colombian sprinter hopes to add to his tally of early season wins at the UAE Tour

Fernando Gaviria says he is “relaxed and enjoying every race” with his new UAE Team Emirates squad, after a sudden move at the end of 2018.

The Colombian sprinting talent has opened his season strong and hopes to continue that trajectory at the UAE Tour, his new team’s home race.

Gaviria unexpectedly switched from Deceuninck – Quick-Step at the end of 2018 after budget constraints for the Belgian team forced them to sell the young powerhouse.

>>> Ben Swift recovering after suffering spleen rupture in training crash

When asked about the significance of opening strong with a new team, the 24-year-old told Cycling Weekly: “It’s really important. When you change teams, you never know what will happen.

“It’s really good for the motivation. I’m comfortable in the team. I’m relaxed and enjoying every race.”

Speaking ahead of the inaugural UAE Tour, he added: “I feel really good. Things are really good with the team.

“This is the first really big race of the year and the team are ready.”

Gaviria won two stages of the Vuelta a San Juan, including his first race day of the season on stage one.



He has taken victory in his first time out every year since 2015.

>>> UAE Tour 2019 live TV guide

Gaviria has won six Grand Tour stages – four at his debut Giro d’Italia in 2017, and two in his first Tour de France last season.

He is set to return to the Tour in 2019.

After a brilliant performance in his first race of the year in Argentina, Gaviria then went on to ride his home race Tour Colombia but was forced to pull out after stage two.

He said: “It’s true I didn’t finish. I had a respiratory problem, trouble breathing.

“I pulled out because the UAE Tour is a very important race for us.

“I’m 100 per cent recovered.

“I’m here with Alexander Kristoff and between us we’ll see what we can do in the sprints.”

The first UAE Tour opens with a team time trial on Sunday (February 24) and ends on Saturday, March 2.

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Will Barta combines a debut with a comeback

When Will Barta suffered a broken femur at last year’s under-23 Giro d’Italia, the injury not only signalled a premature end to his season, but it also risked forcing him to wait another year before making the step up to WorldTour level.

The American youngster had drawn the eye of several teams thanks to his performances at Hagens Berman Axeon, but as he lay in a hospital bed, still unsure of the severity of his injury, his plans of progressing to the elite ranks in 2019 looked altogether uncertain.

“It was challenging because for a few days, I didn’t even know what part of my leg I had broken, to be honest,” Barta told Cyclingnews at this week’s Volta ao Algarve. “It was my greater trochanter, but at first I thought it was the ball, and that would have been a little more challenging.”

Shortly afterwards, Barta received further encouraging news. Despite the injury and accompanying lengthy lay-off, Jim Ochowicz offered him a contract for the 2019 season almost as soon the merger between BMC and CCC had been confirmed in early July. The burden of Barta’s rehabilitation, arduous though it was, was lightened considerably.

“I had been talking with some teams but a bit of that went away because obviously it was a bit of a gamble for them,” Barta said. “But as soon as CCC Team was confirmed as sponsor, I talked to them that week. It was really nice that they had such confidence in me with an injury like that.”

Barta was back on a stationary bike within four weeks of his Giro crash and returned to training on the road within two months. “They cut the gluteus muscle for the surgery and I couldn’t use that for a long time, so just getting that to fire right has been the biggest challenge,” he said.

Another complication, of course, was the compromise between Barta’s desire to hit the ground running in his first professional season, and his need to rehabilitate fully from a serious injury. His recovery time has perhaps been a touch quicker than it might have been in other circumstances, though he reports few ill effects after his eight months out of competition.

“My physical therapists supported it because they understood that it was a necessity, and on the bike it’s been not so bad,” Barta said. “I wouldn’t say my leg is quite at 100 percent yet, because I’m still getting some of the strength back. It was quite a big injury and operation, so I think it just takes a little time and patience to get back to where I want to be. It’s a process.”

CCC Team

A neo-professional’s first races with his new team are a tentative affair at the best of times. For Barta, still feeling his way back into action after a lengthy lay-off, the feeling is even more pronounced, though he was in the thick of the action on stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve, infiltrating the day’s early break on a day that saw the CCC Team go on the offensive in a bid to set up local rider Antonio Antunes ahead of the summit finish on the Alto da Fóia.

“It’s a step up, but coming back to amateur races after an eight-month lay-off would already have been challenging,” said Barta, who began his season at the Vuelta a Murcia last week.

The 23-year-old will return to his European base in Nice for the best part of a month after the Volta ao Algarve ahead of his next appointment at the Volta ao Catalunya. His diet of racing in his maiden season will comprise primarily of shorter stage races, though a ride in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he placed fourth in the under-23 race in 2017, might also be on the cards.

“I think this year is really about learning, and a big goal for me is just to have a healthy season this year and learn all the way through it. I think I’ll find opportunities when they arise,” said Barta, who freely acknowledges that he is still defining himself as a rider.

“When I was younger, I thought I was a long climber, then when I was under-23 I thought I was a punchy climber. By the end of my time as an under-23, I thought I was a long climber and time trialist, so I’m still trying to find where my potential really is, but I think I’m lucky in that I kind of have an overall set.”

That set extends, it seems, beyond his raw talent on a bike. A product of Axel Merckx’s Hagens Bermans Axeon finishing school, Barta arrives at WorldTour level imbued with the knowledge sense that a rider’s life does not consist solely of what happens between the start and finish line.

“Axeon understand that you’re still young but they also push you to be responsible. I think for so many of us – especially the Americans because you have to come to Europe – you really grow up a lot doing that,” Barta said. “You have a job of racing and training, but they also make you realise that it’s more than just that if you want to be at this level. You have to be able to speak with the media, manage yourself and all that stuff which, when you’re really young, you don’t really think about.”

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Juan Martin del Potro: Argentine top seed loses to Mackenzie McDonald in Delray Beach Open quarter-final

Juan Martin del Potro and Mackenzie McDonald

Juan Martin del Potro’s injury comeback ended with a three-set quarter-final defeat by American Mackenzie McDonald at the Delray Beach Open.

The Argentine top seed, was beaten 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-5) by the world number 84.

Del Potro was playing his first tournament since breaking a kneecap at the Shanghai Masters in October.

He defended two match points to win the second set, but McDonald converted his third match point in the third-set tie-break to seal victory.

McDonald, 23, next faces Moldova’s Radu Albot, who came from a set and a break down to beat fourth-seeded American Steve Johnson 1-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5).

In the other last-four tie in Florida, Britain’s Dan Evans will play his first ATP Tour semi-final for over two years against American John Isner.

Del Potro moves on to next week’s tournament in Acapulco, Mexico, where he accepted a wild card to defend his title before he plays at March’s Indian Wells Masters, which he also won last year.

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Johnson opens two-shot halfway lead in Mexico

Dustin Johnson at the WGC-Mexico Championship

WGC-Mexico Championship second-round leaderboard
-11 D Johnson (US); -9 R McIlroy (NI), M Kuchar (US); -7 S Garcia (Spa), T Fleetwood (Eng); -6 C Smith (Aus), I Poulter (Eng)
Selected others: -5 T Woods (US), T Hatton (Eng); -2 D Willett (Eng); +1 M Fitzpatrick (Eng), P Casey (Eng)

Dustin Johnson shot a four-under-par 67 to lead by two strokes at the halfway stage of the WGC-Mexico Championship.

The 34-year-old American, twice a winner of the event, is 11 under par and yet to drop a stroke this week.

Rory McIlroy was four shots clear at one stage but shares second overnight after a four-putt double bogey in a 70.

Englishman Tommy Fleetwood began his round with consecutive eagles and is four off the lead after a 65, while Tiger Woods is five under after a 66.

McIlroy opened with consecutive birdies and also picked up a shot at the fourth, but the sixth hole cost him a shot for the second day running – and four putts from the edge of the ninth green meant he relinquished the lead.

“These greens, with a bit of traffic on them, get a little crusty and it’s hard to trust your lines, but I’m still in a good position,” said the Northern Irishman, who is level with American Matt Kuchar.

England’s Ian Poulter opened with a double bogey at the 10th but seven birdies helped him to a second successive 68 and a share of sixth.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson, who opened with a 79 that left him only one place from the bottom of the leaderboard, birdied the first three holes of his second round and returned a 65 to move up to two over.

World number nine Rickie Fowler had a remarkable round, which began at the 10th with a shank out of bounds with his second shot. He then dropped from shoulder height, contravening new laws brought in at the start of the year, and was penalised a shot, resulting in a triple bogey.

The 30-year-old had two double bogeys but also made six birdies in a 73 for a two-over halfway total.

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Briton Evans reaches first semi-final since drugs ban

Dan Evans reaches Delray Beach Open semi-finals

Britain’s Dan Evans reached his first ATP Tour semi-final for over two years by beating Italian Andreas Seppi in their Delray Beach Open quarter-final.

Evans, 28, won 6-4 6-4 as he continues to rebuild his career following a drugs ban last year.

Ranked inside the top 50 two years ago, he has climbed back to 148th and will rise into the top 120 next week.

He will play either American John Isner or France’s Adrian Mannarino, who meet later on Friday, in the last four.

Evans made a quick start against 35-year-old Seppi, who was once ranked inside the world’s top 20, by breaking in the first game and going on to claim a 4-0 lead.

Despite Seppi briefly rallying, Evans saw out the opening set and earned a decisive break in the third game of the second set.

He served out victory on his first match point with an ace out wide, reaching the third ATP semi-final of his career and the first since returning to the sport last April.

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