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Roglic wins individual time trial, Brambilla keeps Giro lead

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GREVE, Italy (AP) Gianluca Brambilla retained the overall lead of the Giro d’Italia after the ninth stage on Sunday as Primoz Roglic won a rainy individual time trial for his first Grand Tour stage victory.

Roglic, who was beaten by 0.01 of a second in the opening time trial, had the advantage of drier roads before the rain began to fall on the hilly 40.5-kilometer (25-mile) route from Radda to Greve in Chianti in the heart of the Tuscan red wine-making region.

The Slovenian clocked 51 minutes, 45 seconds to claim a stage win in his first Grand Tour since switching from ski jumping to cycling.

“I didn’t expect it, I just wanted to do my best,” Roglic said. “In the end I also had some luck with the weather. This is the first time I do a time trial more than 10 kilometers.”

Mathias Brandle was 10 seconds behind Roglic, with Vegard Stake Laengen third, 17 seconds slower than the Team LottoNl-Jumbo cyclist.

Brambilla’s lead was cut to one second by Etixx-QuickStep teammate Bob Jungels. Andrey Amador is third overall, 32 seconds behind Brambilla.

“I’m really happy,” Brambilla said. “Today was different of course, it was difficult to defend the pink jersey … The last turn was very difficult because I saw riders crashing earlier in the day.”

Ilnur Zakarin had looked set to challenge for the pink jersey, especially after a strong start but the Russian had a disastrous day.

He first had to change his bike after an unspecified problem and then needed a second bicycle following a crash. Zakarin crashed again on the tricky final corner and crossed the line 3:51 down and well over a minute behind the GC favorites of Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa.

Monday is a rest day before Tuesday’s 10th stage, a hilly 219-kilometer ride from Campi Bisenzio to Sestola with no flat sections after the first 25K and an uphill finish.

The 99th Giro ends in Turin on May 29.

2019 Tour will honor 1st victory of 5-time champion Merckx

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BRUSSELS (AP) The start of the 2019 Tour de France will be all about honoring Eddy Merckx in his hometown of Brussels.

Merckx, known as “The Cannibal” for his ferocious taste for victory, won the first of his five Tours in 1969. Half a century later, the Belgian great still sees it as one of the major accomplishments for a cyclist generally considered to be the greatest ever.

“I wore the yellow jersey 96 times. It is the best memory of my career. It still gives me goosebumps,” Merckx said during Tuesday’s presentation of the Grand Depart – the opening weekend of the three-week Tour.

Merckx also won a record 34 Tour stages and is among four riders who won the Tour a record five times. French riders Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain are the others.

Tour organizers said it will be the second time the race will set off from the Belgian capital, which hosted the race’s Grand Depart in 1958.

The 2019 race will also mark 100 years since the race leader’s yellow jersey was created.

When it comes to the first two stages on July 6-7, the iconic Wall of Geraardsbergen climb should take center stage.

The 192-kilometer (119-mile) first stage of the Tour will have the Wall, for decades the toughest climb in the Ronde of Flanders classic. The Wall will come early but the stage, which makes a big loop south of Brussels, is still set up for a sprint finish close to the royal palace.

It will also have its stretch of famed Flemish cobblestones and will pass through the hometown of soccer player Eden Hazard.

The second stage will be a 28-kilometer team time trial through the Belgian capital along its wide-open boulevards. The riders will also pass by St. Pieters-Woluwe in suburban Brussels, where Merckx lived as a child and where he got to pull on his first yellow jersey.

From Brussels, it is an easy trek south into nearby France for the rest of the race.

Peter Sagan wins prelude to Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Three-time world road racing champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia made an outstanding start to the 2018 cycling season Sunday when he won the People’s Choice Classic, a prelude to the first World Tour event of the season, the Tour Down Under.

Sagan beat star sprinters Andre Greipel of Germany and Caleb Ewan of Australia in a bunch sprint to win the 50.6 kilometer (31.4 mile) race over 22 laps of a street course in central Adelaide.

The win means Sagan will wear the tour leader’s ocher jersey in the first stage of the six stage Tour Down Under on Tuesday. Sunday’s race does not count toward general classification.

Ewan won the race in each of the past two years and Greipel is the only three-time winner. The 132-strong field that lined up for the race Sunday included seven former winners.