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Brambilla leads Giro after his 1st Grand Tour stage win

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AREZZO, Italy (AP) Gianluca Brambilla moved into the overall lead of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday with his first ever Grand Tour stage win after a solo attack at the end of the eighth stage.

The Italian attacked with 25 kilometers (16 miles) remaining of the 186-kilometer leg from Foligno to the Tuscan town of Arezzo to open up a significant gap. There was no one in sight as he crossed the line with his arms raised in celebration.

Matteo Montaguti was 1 minute, 6 seconds slower than Brambilla, with Moreno Moser 21 seconds further back in an Italian one-two-three.

Tom Dumoulin was dropped on the main climb of the Alpe di Ponti and finished more than three minutes behind Brambilla, handing the Etixx-QuickStep rider the pink jersey.

“It’s fantastic,” said Brambilla, who dedicated the win to his daughter, who was born 20 days ago. “From the beginning of the Giro I decided to aim for this stage and I did it, even if I still don’t believe it.”

Brambilla praised his teammate Matteo Trentin, saying “he was the rider who did the greater part of the work until I attacked on the hardest part of the climb.”

The main group of favorites finished 1.41 behind Brambilla, with Ilnur Zakarin moving into second overall, 23 seconds behind, and Steven Kruijswijk 10 seconds further back.

Brambilla made his move on the dirt roads up the Alpe di Ponti, swiftly passing Montaguti, who had attacked shortly before him.

The gap between the two Italians was never significant until they reached the flat and Brambilla was able to pull away.

Sunday could see one of the most important stages of the race, with a hilly 40.5-kilometer time trial from Radda to Greve in Chianti in the heart of the Tuscan red wine region.

Time-trial specialist Dumoulin could move back up the standings. The Belgian, who has spent all but one day in the pink jersey since winning the opening time trial, fell to 11th – 1.05 behind Brambilla.

The 99th Giro ends in Turin on May 29.

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.