Greipel wins 5th stage; Dumoulin retains Giro lead

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BENEVENTO, Italy (AP) German rider Andre Greipel won a mass sprint by a large margin to take the fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday, and Tom Dumoulin held onto the overall leader’s pink jersey.

Greipel surged ahead on the final straight and had time to raise his arms before crossing the line.

It was Greipel’s 18th stage win in a Grand Tour – four at the Giro, 10 at the Tour de France and four in the Spanish Vuelta – and the 130th victory overall in his career.

“Chapeau to my teammates today. It was hard for them to chase down the break but they continued to work for me even if the other teams didn’t help us,” Greipel said. “In the sprint I tried not to be blocked in. There was still 300 meters to go but I felt good and decided to go for it.”

Riding for the Lotto Soudal team, Greipel clocked nearly six hours over the hilly 233-kilometer (145-mile) route from Praia to Benevento – the second-longest stage of this year’s race.

Arnaud Demare crossed second and Sonny Colbrelli was third.

Marcel Kittel, the German who won the opening two sprinting stages in the Netherlands, lost contact with the main pack in the final kilometers.

“I just wasn’t strong enough today,” Kittel said.

Dumoulin, of Team Giant-Alpecin, is 16 seconds ahead of Bob Jungels, with Diego Ulissi third overall, 20 seconds behind.

Alejandro Valverde, one of the favorites for the overall title, gained four seconds on rivals Vincenzo Nibali and Mikel Landa, who got caught behind a fall on the final curve.

An early breakaway of four riders – Daniel Oss, Alexander Foliforov, Amets Txurukka and Pavel Brutt – gained a lead of several minutes before being caught by the chasing pack with less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) to go.

Thursday’s Stage 6 is a 157-kilometer (98-mile) leg from Ponte to the Roccaraso, featuring the race’s first uphill finish.

“It’s going to be a tough finish and we’ll really find out how everyone’s form is,” Dumoulin said.

The 99th Giro ends May 29 in Turin.

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.

Alejandro Valverde wins his second Tour of Catalonia

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Alejandro Valverde of Spain won his second Tour of Catalonia on Sunday.

Valverde secured the victory by finishing first in the 139-kilometer (86-mile) seventh stage, perfectly timing his final sprint at a hilltop overlooking Barcelona.

He finished the weeklong race more than one minute ahead of Alberto Contador and Marc Soler, who closed out the all-Spanish podium.

Valverde won despite receiving a one-minute time penalty Wednesday after race officials ruled that some Movistar riders pushed one another in Tuesday’s team time trial.

The 36-year-old Valverde had won two other stages.

Valverde also won the race in northeastern Spain in 2009, the same year he clinched the Spanish Vuelta for his only Grand Tour title.

Three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome fell out of contention during Saturday’s stage.