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.

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.