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Prosecutor: Eddy Merckx to be charged in corruption case

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BRUSSELS — Five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx, considered by many the greatest cyclist of all time, will be charged Wednesday in a Belgian corruption case linked to irregular purchases of equipment by Brussels-area police and municipalities, a Brussels prosecutor said.

The prosecutor, who spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements, said Merckx is accused of corruption and the use of false documents in the sale of 46 bicycles by his then-company Cycles Eddy Merckx to police in southern Brussels in 2006-07.

The contract, worth an estimated 15,000 euros ($16,700), was allegedly obtained after a policeman furnished Merckx with inside information. Merckx allegedly rewarded the officer by selling him a carbon-fiber bicycle at a low price and giving a bicycle to the man’s wife.

If found guilty of the charges against him, the prosecutor said, Merckx could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. He said such a heavy sentence was unlikely for a person many Belgians consider their country’s greatest hero.

Twelve others, including two former high-ranking police officers, are also charged in the case.

“What Merckx is accused of is really small potatoes compared to some of the others,” the prosecutor said. Some of the irregular procurements involved Toyota vehicles and security cameras, according to published accounts.

Merckx, 70, could not immediately be reached for comment, but was quoted by the Belgian daily newspaper Derniere Heure as saying, “I have nothing to say. We’ll see what happens.”

After the criminal charges are confirmed by the Brussels prosecutor’s office, a panel of judges will decide whether the case should proceed to trial. The panel is expected to consider the case in early September, the prosecutor said.

Quintana keeps lead but Dumoulin remains pick to win Giro

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ASIAGO, Italy — Nairo Quintana held on to the pink jersey in the penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday but likely didn’t pick up enough seconds on his most dangerous rival, Tom Dumoulin, to claim overall victory.

Thibaut Pinot of France won the 20th stage in a sprint finish ahead of Ilnur Zakarin of Russia and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali.

Entering Sunday’s concluding time trial, Quintana leads Nibali by 39 seconds with Pinot third, 43 seconds back.

Dumoulin dropped from second to fourth, 53 seconds back, although he still remains the favorite considering his time trialing skills.

The 100th Giro ends on Sunday with a flat 29.3-kilometer (18-mile) individual time trial from Monza’s Formula One race track to Milan.

Dumoulin already dominated the race’s first time trial in Stage 10.

Quintana reclaims pink jersey with 2 stages to go in Giro

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PIANCAVALLO, Italy — Nairo Quintana reclaimed the pink jersey from Tom Dumoulin with two stages to go in the Giro d’Italia on Friday, setting up what could be a tense finale in Milan on Sunday.

Dumoulin couldn’t keep up with his main rivals in the final uphill finish of the three-week race and trails Quintana, the 2014 winner from Colombia, by 38 seconds.

Two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali is third overall, 43 seconds behind Quintana.

With Thibaut Pinot of France fourth overall, 53 seconds back, the top four are grouped within less than a minute.

“It’s pretty complicated. We have to adapt the strategy day-by-day,” Quintana said.

Spanish rider Mikel Landa won the 19th stage in a breakaway, finally tasting victory after two second-place finishes and one third-place result.

Landa required nearly five hours to complete the 191-kilometer (119-mile) route from San Candido to Piancavallo. He finished nearly two minutes ahead of Rui Costa, with Stage 17 winner Pierre Rolland crossing third.

On Thursday, Dumoulin criticized the tactics of Quintana and Nibali, saying they were merely racing to make him lose – remarks that earned a sharp rebuke from Nibali.

Before Friday’s stage, Dumoulin apologized to Nibali and the pair shook hands.

If anything, Dumoulin’s comments appeared to have motivated Quintana and Nibali, who temporarily dropped Dumoulin on a downhill section midway through Friday’s stage.

While the Dutchman caught up on the ensuing Sella Chianzutan climb, he didn’t have the legs to keep up on the 15.4-kilometer climb to Piancavallo, which began at an average gradient of nearly 10 percent.

“I had bad legs from the start and I made a rookie mistake at the beginning, sitting at the back of the bunch on the downhill,” Dumoulin said.

“In the final I tried to limit my losses and I did that very well. My team saved me a couple of times, so I have to thank them. Otherwise it would have been a much worse day. Bad legs today, but I hope they’ll be better tomorrow.”

Quintana wore pink for one day after winning Stage 9. Dumoulin then took control by dominating a time trial in Stage 10 and had led ever since.

Quintana has also finished on the Tour de France podium three times.

The penultimate stage on Saturday is the last mountainous leg, a 190-kilometer (118-mile) route from Pordenone to Asiago featuring two first-category climbs – a long 24-kilometer ascent to Monte Grappa and a shorter but steeper 14-kilometer rise to Foza.

The 100th Giro ends on Sunday with an individual time trial from Monza to Milan.

“Tomorrow there will be another important stage and then I’ll give it all in the time trial,” Quintana said.