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23,000 police mobilized to protect Tour de France

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PARIS (AP) Cyclists at the Tour de France will be under the watch of an unprecedented force of 23,000 police, including SWAT-like intervention squads, as the government tries to ensure security amid extremist threats.

France has been in a state of emergency since attacks on Paris in November killed 130 people, with soldiers guarding landmarks and religious sites. The emergency measures were extended last week to cover the European soccer championship next month and the Tour de France, which runs from July 2-24.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve met on Tuesday with Tour director Christian Prudhomme and afterward announced exceptional security measures.

Securing the Tour is unusually difficult, as crowds of fans gather informally on narrow mountain roads and city streets along thousands of kilometers around France. In past years, motorcyclists from the Republican Guard escorted the cyclists.

“Security is our priority – I might say the Tour de France organizers’ No. 1 priority. Security of the participants, security of the fans along the roads,” Prudhomme said.

In addition to the at least 23,000 police, Cazeneuve said, “We are currently assessing the need for a larger involvement of our security forces.”

Cazeneuve said he asked the GIGN intervention squad “to follow the Tour de France through to the end of the event and stand ready to intervene at any moment if it proves necessary.”

He promised similarly tough security around the Euro 2016, and acknowledged “a number of unfortunate mistakes” in security efforts at the Stade de France on Saturday that he vowed to fix.

Brazilian cycling team faces 2nd ban for persistent doping

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AIGLE, Switzerland (AP) Brazilian team Soul Brasil Pro Cycling faces another ban from racing after two more riders were implicated in doping.

The International Cycling Union says the team will be judged by its disciplinary panel which can impose bans of up to one year.

Cycling rules allow teams to be suspended if two riders are caught doping in a one-year period.

In December, the team’s riders were suspended for 55 days after three cases involving the banned blood booster CERA since July. They included Kleber Ramos of Brazil, who competed in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic road race.

The UCI says the latest cases involve biological passport results for Alex Correia Diniz, who is provisionally suspended, and an allegation against Otavio Bulgarelli of tampering with a doping sample.

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.