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Poels wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic

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LIEGE, Belgium (AP) Dutch rider Wout Poels attacked near the end and held off Swiss veteran Michael Albasini to win the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic on Sunday for the biggest win of his career.

With four riders left in the home stretch on slippery roads, the 28-year-old Poels pulled away with about 250 meters to go, and the Team SKY rider had enough of a lead to sit up in his saddle and raise his arms as he crossed the line.

Albasini finished ahead of Portuguese cyclist Rui Costa, with 2008 Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez of Spain crossing in fourth place.

Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde was looking to win the Ardennes double for a second year after his midweek victory in the Walloon Arrow, but finished out of contention in 15th place.

A group of eight riders led for most of the 248-kilometer (154-mile) course, which was shortened by 5 kilometers (3 miles) due to snow and heavy rain along the route.

But with about 30 kilometers to go, most of that group was caught, leaving only Frenchman Nicolas Edet and Alessandro De Marchi out in front.

In driving rain, they managed to reach the top of the Col de la Redoute together, but were both caught with some 25 kilometers remaining.

Valverde was among the favorites, having become the first rider to win the Walloon Arrow four times after racing to a third straight title Wednesday.

Valverde had his eyes set on a fourth win here on the eve of his 36th birthday. Inside the last 20 kilometers, he urged his teammates to accelerate but Valverde struggled near the back of the group when some 20 riders entered the last few kilometers and he finished 12 seconds behind Poels.

With one kilometer left, Albasini attacked first, with Costa, Sanchez and Poels just behind him.

But Poels timed his attack just right to win the grueling race in 6 hours, 24 minutes, 29 seconds.

Brazilian cycling team faces 2nd ban for persistent doping

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AIGLE, Switzerland (AP) Brazilian team Soul Brasil Pro Cycling faces another ban from racing after two more riders were implicated in doping.

The International Cycling Union says the team will be judged by its disciplinary panel which can impose bans of up to one year.

Cycling rules allow teams to be suspended if two riders are caught doping in a one-year period.

In December, the team’s riders were suspended for 55 days after three cases involving the banned blood booster CERA since July. They included Kleber Ramos of Brazil, who competed in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic road race.

The UCI says the latest cases involve biological passport results for Alex Correia Diniz, who is provisionally suspended, and an allegation against Otavio Bulgarelli of tampering with a doping sample.

Van Avermaet wins Gent-Wevelgem for two victories in three days

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GENT, Belgium (AP) Olympic road champion Greg Van Avermaet won his second race in three days Sunday, beating fellow Belgian Jens Keukeleire in a two-man sprint finish to take the Gent-Wevelgem classic.

World champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia, who won last year’s race, finished third.

The 249-kilometer (154.7-mile) race through Belgium included two ascents of the steep, cobbled Kemmelberg hill, one of the iconic climbs of the spring classics season.

Last year’s race was overshadowed by the death of Belgian rider Antoine Demoitie after a fall.

Sagan fell Friday in the E3 Harelbeke, which Van Avermaet also won to add to his victory last month in Het Nieuwsblad.