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Kittel wins 2nd Giro stage as Dumoulin retains overall lead

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NIJMEGEN, Netherlands (AP) Tom Dumoulin retained the overall lead of the Giro d’Italia as Marcel Kittel sprinted to victory in the second stage on Saturday.

Kittel waited to start his sprint but once he hit the front no one could challenge him, and the German had time to raise his arms in celebration as he crossed the line several bike lengths ahead of Arnaud Demare.

Sacha Modolo was third on the 190-kilometer (118-mile) route from Arnhem to Nijmegen.

It was Kittel’s third stage win in the Giro. By coincidence, none of those victories have come in Italy, with his two previous successes in Ireland in 2014.

Kittel moved to third in the overall standings, one second behind Dumoulin and Primoz Roglic, who the Dutchman beat by one hundredth of a second in Friday’s opening time trial.

There was an early breakaway of Omar Fraile, Giacomo Berlato, and Maarten Tjallingii, and the trio stayed clear for more than 160 kilometers.

They had an advantage of 10 minutes at one point before the sprinters’ teams started working to bring them back.

Fraile and Tjallingii were the first to be caught, while Berlato went alone for a further 13 kilometers, before he was swallowed up at the end of the first of two 8.6-kilometer circuits to the finish line.

The 99th Giro continues in the Netherlands on Sunday with another sprint stage before an early rest day and a return to Italy.

The race ends in Turin on May 29.

2019 Tour will honor 1st victory of 5-time champion Merckx

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BRUSSELS (AP) The start of the 2019 Tour de France will be all about honoring Eddy Merckx in his hometown of Brussels.

Merckx, known as “The Cannibal” for his ferocious taste for victory, won the first of his five Tours in 1969. Half a century later, the Belgian great still sees it as one of the major accomplishments for a cyclist generally considered to be the greatest ever.

“I wore the yellow jersey 96 times. It is the best memory of my career. It still gives me goosebumps,” Merckx said during Tuesday’s presentation of the Grand Depart – the opening weekend of the three-week Tour.

Merckx also won a record 34 Tour stages and is among four riders who won the Tour a record five times. French riders Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain are the others.

Tour organizers said it will be the second time the race will set off from the Belgian capital, which hosted the race’s Grand Depart in 1958.

The 2019 race will also mark 100 years since the race leader’s yellow jersey was created.

When it comes to the first two stages on July 6-7, the iconic Wall of Geraardsbergen climb should take center stage.

The 192-kilometer (119-mile) first stage of the Tour will have the Wall, for decades the toughest climb in the Ronde of Flanders classic. The Wall will come early but the stage, which makes a big loop south of Brussels, is still set up for a sprint finish close to the royal palace.

It will also have its stretch of famed Flemish cobblestones and will pass through the hometown of soccer player Eden Hazard.

The second stage will be a 28-kilometer team time trial through the Belgian capital along its wide-open boulevards. The riders will also pass by St. Pieters-Woluwe in suburban Brussels, where Merckx lived as a child and where he got to pull on his first yellow jersey.

From Brussels, it is an easy trek south into nearby France for the rest of the race.

Peter Sagan wins prelude to Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Three-time world road racing champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia made an outstanding start to the 2018 cycling season Sunday when he won the People’s Choice Classic, a prelude to the first World Tour event of the season, the Tour Down Under.

Sagan beat star sprinters Andre Greipel of Germany and Caleb Ewan of Australia in a bunch sprint to win the 50.6 kilometer (31.4 mile) race over 22 laps of a street course in central Adelaide.

The win means Sagan will wear the tour leader’s ocher jersey in the first stage of the six stage Tour Down Under on Tuesday. Sunday’s race does not count toward general classification.

Ewan won the race in each of the past two years and Greipel is the only three-time winner. The 132-strong field that lined up for the race Sunday included seven former winners.