Peter Sagan claims Tour de France yellow jersey after Stage 2 win

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CHERBOURG-EN-COTENTIN, France — World champion Peter Sagan made the most of a steep, short climb in a frenzied finale to win the second stage of the Tour de France and claim the race leader’s yellow jersey on Sunday.

Sagan, who pulled on the coveted shirt for the first time, used his power on the 1.9-kilometer Cote de la Glacerie leading to the finish line to claim the win.

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe, who started the final sprint, was second in the 183-kilometer stage between Saint-Lo and Cherbourg-en-Cotentin in Normandy, with Spaniard Alejandro Valverde in third place.

A debutant at the Tour, Alaphilippe made his move on the left side of the road. Sagan waited patiently in his wake before timing his acceleration to perfection to overtake the Frenchman and win by a bike’s length.

“I’m very surprised I won because I was thinking there were still two guys in front,” said Sagan, who did not celebrate as he crossed the line. “The team today made a very big job. Roman Kreuziger did the last climb full gas and in the final I did my best — for third place… It’s unbelievable. I’m already wearing a very nice jersey, but yellow is something special.”

Two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, who crashed for a second consecutive day, was dropped in the final climb and lost 48 seconds.

Belgian Jasper Stuyven, who was part of an early breakaway group that formed after the start of the stage, almost thwarted Sagan’s plans when he tried to go for a solo win, but was reined in with 500 meters left.

Overnight leader Mark Cavendish finished just behind BMC co-leader Richie Porte, who was among the big losers of day, crossing the finish line 1 minute and 45 seconds behind Sagan after a puncture.

Cavendish started the day with a four-second lead over Marcel Kittel, with Sagan in third place, six seconds behind. The Slovak rider now has an 8-second lead over Alaphilippe, with Valverde in third place 10 seconds back.

Chris Froome, last year’s Tour winner, is fifth overall after Sunday’s stage, 14 seconds behind Sagan.

All 198 riders took the start in Saint-Lo under grey skies but Cavendish brought a splash of color to the scene.

Wearing yellow for the first time, the Briton marked the special occasion with a customized bike featuring yellow handlebar and pedals.

Stuyven and three other riders immediately broke away from the peloton on slippery roads near the English Channel as rain started to fall. Paul Voss, Vegard Breen, Cesare Benedetti and Stuyven built a lead of about six minutes before the peloton started to pull them back.

Voss, who spent most of the opening day at the front of the race, was made to pay for his efforts and was dropped in the climb to the summit of the Cote de Montpinchon.

He managed to rejoin the leading group while a crash split the main peloton in two after 60 kilometers. Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez and Contador, who suffered cuts and bruises on his right shoulder in a crash during Stage 1, were among the riders caught up in the incident.

Contador fell on the same shoulder and was forced to change bike. He was helped back into the pack by five Tinkoff teammates as the pace slowed down at the front.

“It’s not ideal but he’s fine,” Tinkoff sports director Sean Yates said. “It’s not good to fall two days in a row, but we hope this was the last time.”

There were some broad smiles on the riders’ faces as the sun finally broke through the clouds with 100 kilometers left, drying the roads and warming bodies in the peloton.

The pace in the bunch barely moved until 55 kilometers to go when Cavendish’s Dimension Data outfit started to push forward.

The peloton’s chase started a bit late, as the final battle shaped up with rain falling again and Stuyven almost upseting all the favorites.

“I felt a little bit empty on the steep part,” said Stuyven, who made his breakthrough last year when he won a stage at the Spanish Vuelta. “Unfortunately, I was 450 meters short.”

Ferdy Kuebler, 1950 Tour de France champion, dies at 97

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LONDON — Ferdy Kuebler, who came back from injury and the interruption of World War II to win the 1950 Tour de France, has died. He was 97.

The Swiss won an epic battle with French rider Louison Bobet in the 1950 race, and became world champion the following year.

Andre Haefliger, the chief reporter at Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrierte, said from Kuebler’s home in Switzerland on Friday that he could confirm the death on behalf of Kuebler’s widow, Christina. Kuebler died Thursday at a Zurich hospital. He had been suffering from a cold.

Switzerland’s national cycling association, Swiss Cycling, paid tribute to Kuebler and offered its condolences to his family. “We are taking leave of one of the greatest cycling legends of our time,” it wrote on its website.

For many, his biggest achievement was winning the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege races, then held on successive days, in both 1951 and 1952.

In an era of marathon races on poor roads, Kuebler also won the 1953 Bordeaux-to-Paris after 570 kilometers (356 miles) and more than 14 hours in the saddle.

Born July 24, 1919, into a poverty-stricken family near Zurich, Kuebler knew as a child that he wanted to be a professional cyclist.

Forced as a teenager to find work to support his family, he got a job delivering bread by bicycle.

“I had to climb the mountain up to four times a day. That was how I trained for my career. I told myself: one day you will be a cyclist,” Kuebler said in a 2003 television documentary.

Later, as a Zurich office worker, Kuebler cycled the 100-kilometer (63-mile) round trip from home.

World War II broke out as he was starting to make his name as a cyclist. Kuebler was drafted into the Swiss army.

“I lost five or six of my best years,” he said.

An accident in 1946 that hospitalized him for two months almost ended his postwar career.

He came back in 1947 and started his first Tour, aged 28. He won the first stage, becoming the first post-war wearer of the famed yellow jersey.

In 1950, third-placed Kuebler took over the race lead when Italy’s team of riders withdrew, accusing spectators of assaulting them.

He finished the 4,773 kilometers (2,983 miles) 9 minutes, 30 seconds ahead of Belgium’s Stan Ockers, with Bobet third.

Kuebler chose not to race another Tour until 1954. He finished second, behind Bobet.

After retiring at age 38, Kuebler trained as a ski instructor and worked on the Swiss slopes for 25 winters. In summer he did publicity for the Tour de Suisse and traveled with the race as an official for 35 years.

Kuebler said there was never any other career for him except cycling.

“I always said if I came back to earth – which I hope will happen – I would be a cyclist again,” he said.

New Zealanders join Lance Armstrong in early morning ride

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Several hundred cyclists turned out Tuesday for an early morning ride with Lance Armstrong, who is in New Zealand to film a commercial for a local brewery.

Armstrong issued an invitation by social media to join him cycling around Auckland’s waterfront and a crowd estimated at up to 1,000 turned out.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from cycling in 2013 after admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career.

Armstrong told the New Zealand Herald newspaper that he was glad to know he still has some support.

New Zealand’s Lion Breweries has confirmed it brought the 45-year-old Texan to New Zealand. In an internal staff email, the brewer said “we are using Lance to tell a cautionary tale called `The Consequence’, which depicts how much you stand to lose when you pursue success at all costs.”

“We wanted to highlight that actions have consequences and we couldn’t think of anyone better to demonstrate that than Lance,” the email said.

Armstrong arrived in Auckland on Sunday from Houston, telling reporters he is in New Zealand on business but has bought his bike and golf clubs.

He took part in a ride later that day with a small group including New Zealand Ironman triathlon champion Cameron Brown.