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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.

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.