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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.

Nibali wins Milan-San Remo classic with solo attack

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SAN REMO, Italy (AP) Vincenzo Nibali carried off a daring solo attack to perfection to win the Milan-San Remo classic on Saturday and add to his long list of major achievements in cycling.

The Italian accelerated away from the pack on the Poggio, the final climb of the 294-kilometer (183-mile) race, with 7 kilometers to go.

Nibali then showed off his downhill skills on the technical descent and narrowly held off a pack of chasing sprinters on the flat finish.

Nibali looked back only once, with 50 meters remaining, and realized he had time to raise his arms in celebration before crossing the line in a time of 7 hours, 18 minutes, 43 seconds.

“I saw I created a gap right away,” Nibali said. “When I looked back it was a special emotion. It’s a race I didn’t expect to win because I’m not (a sprinter).

Caleb Ewan of Australia crossed second and Arnaud Demare of France finished third, both with the same time as Nibali.

Nibali, who rides for the Bahrain Merida team, has also won all three Grand Tours: the Giro d’Italia – twice – the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta.

Always looking for the fastest lines, Nibali at one point came so close to the fences that he knocked a cell phone out of a fan’s hand.

“When I pull these things off sometimes even I don’t know how I’m able do it,” Nibali said.

Mark Cavendish, the British sprinting standout, slammed into road furniture with 10 kilometers to go and flipped over his bike onto the asphalt.

Kwiatkowski wins Tirreno-Adriatico, Dennis takes final stage

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SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy (AP) Michal Kwiatkowski won the Tirreno-Adriatico cycling race Tuesday after an impressive time trial on the final stage, which was won by Rohan Dennis.

Kwiatkowski started the individual time trial with an advantage of three seconds over Damiano Caruso and he was quicker than the Italian rider at every time check.

The Polish cyclist eventually finished 24 seconds ahead of Caruso in the overall standings, with Geraint Thomas third, 32 seconds behind his Team Sky teammate.

“I don’t actually know the final result, just that I won, and that’s all that matters,” Kwiatkowski said. “It was very nervous. When I was warming up it started raining so I was scared something might go wrong.

“I had to go with lower tire pressure. It was tricky … I had to be careful but I had good feelings today and that’s why I could finish so well.”

Thomas lost 36 seconds to the leaders following a mechanical failure during the fourth stage of the seven-stage race.

Dennis was quickest on the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto. The Australian, who also won the closing time trial last year, was four seconds faster than Jos van Emden and eight ahead of Jonathan Castroviejo.

“To be honest I was nervous about it,” Dennis said. “I was looking at the best times on the course and was thinking, `What do I need to aim for?”‘