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World champion Peter Sagan opens Tour of California with win

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SAN DIEGO (AP) Peter Sagan wasn’t quite ready to strip off the yellow jersey at the Tour of California.

The surprising overall winner a year ago, Sagan unleashed a powerful sprint at the last possible moment on Sunday, overcoming Dutch riders Wouter Wippert and Dylan Groenewegen to win the 109-mile first stage that began and ended along the San Diego waterfront.

Sagan was quiet all day in the peloton, then freelanced his way through the field as the pace picked up on the wide boulevards to the finish. He swung wide of Wippert and Groenewegen within sight of the finish line, thrusting his bike across in first by less than a tire length.

It was the 14th stage win in California for the Slovakian superstar, and continues one of the most impressive stretches in recent cycling history that began on the opposite coast.

Sagan won the world championship last September in Richmond, Virginia.

The opening stage include only one serious climb, midway through the route, so there was plenty of time for the field to come together. An early seven-rider breakaway never stood much chance, and when it was reduced to three, they were swept up altogether with about 2 miles left to go.

The stage figured to be a sprint finish all along, but missing from the front were several of the sport’s biggest names – Mark Cavendish, Alexander Kristoff and John Degenkolb.

Groenewegen, riding for Lotto-Jumbo, took advantage of his team’s strong lead-out to make the first move at the finish. Wippert flashed by him in his Cannondale colors and looked for a moment like he would give his U.S.-based team a stunning victory in the biggest race on American soil.

The two dark-horses then watched the world’s top-ranked rider storm right past them.

The second stage on Monday, a 92-mile ride from Pasadena to Santa Clarita, could give Sagan an opportunity to hang onto the leader’s jersey. There are four rated climbs that could shake up the field, but there’s also enough time after the final one to produce another bunched finish.

Andy Rihs, Swiss owner of cycling, soccer teams, dies at 75

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BERN, Switzerland (AP) Andy Rihs, a Swiss businessman who owned the BMC Racing cycling team and Young Boys soccer club, has died. He was 75.

Rihs died Wednesday in Zurich after “a patient and valiantly endured illness,” the BMC team said Thursday in a statement.

“Our grief is indescribable, but we will carry on his values,” the team said, praising Rihs for his “generosity, his sense of humor, and his infectious laugh.”

Rihs’s death comes with Young Boys close to winning its first Swiss league title in 32 years. Young Boys leads by 11 points with six matches left.

“Andy, thank you for everything. We will miss you,” Young Boys said in a statement.

Rihs’s brother, Hans-Ueli, is also an owner of the club and Stade de Suisse in Bern, known locally as Wankdorf. The stadium staged the 1954 World Cup final.

As BMC owner, Rihs secured a Tour de France title five years after his previous team was involved in a doping scandal. Cadel Evans of Australia wore BMC’s black and red colors to victory in the 2011 Tour.

In 2006, the Rihs-backed Phonak team disbanded after American rider Floyd Landis was stripped of the Tour title.

Cycling’s top riders set for Tour of California next month

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The top men’s and women’s teams will compete next month in the Amgen Tour of California, the premier U.S. cycling race.

The men will cover 645 miles over seven stages from Long Beach to Sacramento from May 13 to May 19. The women will have three of the top five teams for their three-day, 187-mile race that starts May 17 in Elk Grove.

Race owner AEG announced Thursday that Pete Sagan will ride for the BORA-hansgrohe team while Mark Cavendish will go for Team Dimension Data and be joined by Rafal Majka.

Tony Gallopin of AG2R La Mondiale is in the men’s field. So is LottoNL-Jumbo’s Nielson Powless, the race’s best young rider in 2016.

The women feature 2016 champion Megan Guarnier of USA Cycling National Team, Katie Hall of UnitedHealthcare and Kasia Niewiadoma of Canyon/SCRAM.