Ulissi wins 4th Giro stage; Dumoulin reclaims overall lead

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PRAIA A MARE, Italy — Italian rider Diego Ulissi won the fourth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday by attacking on a climb shortly before the finish, while Tom Dumoulin crossed second to reclaim the overall lead.

Returning to Italy after three stages in the Netherlands, Ulissi put an Italian stamp on the race after the Dutchman Dumoulin took the opening time trial and Marcel Kittel of Germany won the first two sprints.

Riding for the Lampre team, Ulissi stood up out of his saddle and surged ahead on the steepest section — at a gradient of 18 percent — of the short Fortino climb with 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) to go. He then maintained his lead on the descent to the finish along the Calabrian seaside.

Completing the hilly 200-kilometer (124-mile) route from Catanzaro to Praia a Mare in nearly five hours, Ulissi finished five seconds ahead of Dumoulin, who edged fellow Dutch rider Steven Kruijswijk in a sprint.

It’s the fifth Giro stage win of Ulissi’s career and his 20th victory overall.

“My victory comes after enormous team work,” Ulissi said. “Valerio Conti managed to create the small group and I rode away knowing that, on the final descent, the peloton of chasers would go even faster than me. I gave it everything I had. It’s a huge emotion”.

Dumoulin, of Team Giant-Alpecin, holds a 20-second lead over Bob Jungels, with Ulissi third overall, also 20 seconds behind.

“It’s great to get the Maglia Rosa back,” Dumoulin said, of the race leader’s pink jersey. “That’s what we were working for today. We sent Georg Preidler into the last breakaway. It would have been perfect if he had taken the race lead but it wasn’t to be. At the last gasp, I tried for the stage win but Ulissi was just too strong.”

Pre-race favorite Vincenzo Nibali, the 2013 Giro champion and 2014 Tour de France winner, moved up to sixth, 26 seconds back. Alejandro Valverde, another favorite, is five seconds further behind in seventh.

Previous leader Kittel struggled on several climbs and dropped more than eight minutes behind.

Stage 5 on Wednesday is another hilly 233-kilometer (145-mile) leg from Praia to Benevento.

The 99th edition of the race ends May 29 in Turin.

World champ Peter Sagan to race in Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) Three-time world road race champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia has confirmed he will compete in the Tour Down Under in January, the opening World Tour event of the season.

Sagan won the world title last month for the third straight year, becoming the first cyclist to do so. He competed in the Tour Down Under for the first time last year, finishing second on three stages behind Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan.

Sagan, who rides for the BORA-hansgrohe team, said the six-stage Tour Down Under is “the perfect start to the UCI World Tour season each year … a challenging and tough course, warm weather and the passionate fans that cheer for us day in day out no matter what.”

Former Olympic cycling champ fired after positive drug test

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) Former Olympic road cycling champion Samuel Sanchez, who returned a positive doping test in August, had his B-sample confirmed Wednesday and was promptly fired by the BMC Racing Team.

Sanchez’s out-of-competition test revealed growth hormone-releasing peptide 2, or GHRP-2, a drug that increases a body’s level of growth hormone. Several cyclists have tested positive for the drug, among them Italian rider Stefano Pirazzi, who was given a four-year ban earlier this week.

The U.S.-based BMC Team said in a statement Wednesday that it was adhering to its zero-tolerance policy toward doping by terminating the Spaniard’s contract “with immediate effect.”

The 39-year-old Sanchez, who had been provisionally suspended, won gold at the 2008 Beijing Games.