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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.

Ferdy Kuebler, 1950 Tour de France champion, dies at 97

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LONDON — Ferdy Kuebler, who came back from injury and the interruption of World War II to win the 1950 Tour de France, has died. He was 97.

The Swiss won an epic battle with French rider Louison Bobet in the 1950 race, and became world champion the following year.

Andre Haefliger, the chief reporter at Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrierte, said from Kuebler’s home in Switzerland on Friday that he could confirm the death on behalf of Kuebler’s widow, Christina. Kuebler died Thursday at a Zurich hospital. He had been suffering from a cold.

Switzerland’s national cycling association, Swiss Cycling, paid tribute to Kuebler and offered its condolences to his family. “We are taking leave of one of the greatest cycling legends of our time,” it wrote on its website.

For many, his biggest achievement was winning the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege races, then held on successive days, in both 1951 and 1952.

In an era of marathon races on poor roads, Kuebler also won the 1953 Bordeaux-to-Paris after 570 kilometers (356 miles) and more than 14 hours in the saddle.

Born July 24, 1919, into a poverty-stricken family near Zurich, Kuebler knew as a child that he wanted to be a professional cyclist.

Forced as a teenager to find work to support his family, he got a job delivering bread by bicycle.

“I had to climb the mountain up to four times a day. That was how I trained for my career. I told myself: one day you will be a cyclist,” Kuebler said in a 2003 television documentary.

Later, as a Zurich office worker, Kuebler cycled the 100-kilometer (63-mile) round trip from home.

World War II broke out as he was starting to make his name as a cyclist. Kuebler was drafted into the Swiss army.

“I lost five or six of my best years,” he said.

An accident in 1946 that hospitalized him for two months almost ended his postwar career.

He came back in 1947 and started his first Tour, aged 28. He won the first stage, becoming the first post-war wearer of the famed yellow jersey.

In 1950, third-placed Kuebler took over the race lead when Italy’s team of riders withdrew, accusing spectators of assaulting them.

He finished the 4,773 kilometers (2,983 miles) 9 minutes, 30 seconds ahead of Belgium’s Stan Ockers, with Bobet third.

Kuebler chose not to race another Tour until 1954. He finished second, behind Bobet.

After retiring at age 38, Kuebler trained as a ski instructor and worked on the Swiss slopes for 25 winters. In summer he did publicity for the Tour de Suisse and traveled with the race as an official for 35 years.

Kuebler said there was never any other career for him except cycling.

“I always said if I came back to earth – which I hope will happen – I would be a cyclist again,” he said.

New Zealanders join Lance Armstrong in early morning ride

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Several hundred cyclists turned out Tuesday for an early morning ride with Lance Armstrong, who is in New Zealand to film a commercial for a local brewery.

Armstrong issued an invitation by social media to join him cycling around Auckland’s waterfront and a crowd estimated at up to 1,000 turned out.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from cycling in 2013 after admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career.

Armstrong told the New Zealand Herald newspaper that he was glad to know he still has some support.

New Zealand’s Lion Breweries has confirmed it brought the 45-year-old Texan to New Zealand. In an internal staff email, the brewer said “we are using Lance to tell a cautionary tale called `The Consequence’, which depicts how much you stand to lose when you pursue success at all costs.”

“We wanted to highlight that actions have consequences and we couldn’t think of anyone better to demonstrate that than Lance,” the email said.

Armstrong arrived in Auckland on Sunday from Houston, telling reporters he is in New Zealand on business but has bought his bike and golf clubs.

He took part in a ride later that day with a small group including New Zealand Ironman triathlon champion Cameron Brown.