Cummings wins Tour stage as inflatable device blocks riders

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LAC DE PAYOLLE, France (AP) British rider Steve Cummings won the Tour de France seventh stage which came to a bizarre end when an inflatable arch marking the final kilometer collapsed on Friday.

Adam Yates, a British rider with the Orica team, was hit by the arch and reached the finish with a bloodied chin.

“He was alone when it happened. He could not brake and did a somersault and fell on his face,” Orica sports director Laurenzo Lapage said. “The doctor is seeing him now. His shoulder is aching.”

Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium, who was in a breakaway with Cummings, held on to the yellow jersey he claimed two days earlier.

Overall favorites Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana finished in the main pack during the first stage in the Pyrenees.

Froome, Quintana, and other riders had to lift the arch – known as the “flamme rouge” for the red flag it holds – off the ground and slip their bikes underneath it.

Organizers said they would take finishing times three kilometers from the finish of the 162.5-kilometer (101-mile) leg from L’Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle.

“It won’t make a big difference because there was a downhill and flat portion before the finish,” said Thierry Gouvenou, the Tour technical director. “It was a major incident, but we have the means to deal with it.”

Daryl Impey of South Africa finished second and Daniel Navarro of Spain crossed third, each 65 seconds behind Cummings. However, it wasn’t immediately clear what times they would be given.

In the overall, Van Avermaet leads Julian Alaphilippe by 6:36, with Alejandro Valverde third, 6:38 back.

“I did not plan to be in a breakaway,” Van Avermaet said. “I’m not a good climber, I’m a classic rider, and the big favorites did not see me as a threat. Tomorrow, it will be too difficult with all the climbs, but I’m happy I spent an extra day in the yellow jersey.”

Thibaut Pinot, considered one of the top French contenders, was dropped on the Aspin.

All 198 riders started the stage, marking the first time the entire peloton was still racing this late in the Tour in 103 editions.

The Aspin, which was included in the Tour for the 73rd time, was affronted from its longer southern slope, 12 kilometers at an average gradient of 6.5 percent.

Fresh off his third stage win a day earlier, Mark Cavendish was involved in an early breakaway along with world champion Peter Sagan.

After the Cavendish-Sagan group was caught by the peloton, a 29-man pack featuring Van Avermaet and 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali established a more dangerous lead of five minutes.

However, it was Cummings who attacked first and he rode solo over the summit and maintained a comfortable lead on the ensuing high-speed descent and slight rise to the finish in Lac de Payolle.

Cummings shook his head in disbelief as he approached the line then raised both arms, pumped his fist, and kissed his wrist.

Cummings, a teammate of Mark Cavendish on Team Dimension Data, also won a stage in last year’s Tour.

When the main pack reached the line 4 1/2 minutes later, Quintana and Froome were seen patting each other on the back and talking to each other, likely about the incident with the inflatable device.

The Tour remains in the Pyrenees for the next two days.

Stage 8 on Saturday is a much more challenging 184-kilometer (114-mile) leg from Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon featuring four serious climbs, beginning with the Col du Tourmalet, which is so difficult it’s labeled “beyond classification.”

AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin contributed to this report.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

World champ Peter Sagan to race in Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) Three-time world road race champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia has confirmed he will compete in the Tour Down Under in January, the opening World Tour event of the season.

Sagan won the world title last month for the third straight year, becoming the first cyclist to do so. He competed in the Tour Down Under for the first time last year, finishing second on three stages behind Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan.

Sagan, who rides for the BORA-hansgrohe team, said the six-stage Tour Down Under is “the perfect start to the UCI World Tour season each year … a challenging and tough course, warm weather and the passionate fans that cheer for us day in day out no matter what.”

Former Olympic cycling champ fired after positive drug test

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) Former Olympic road cycling champion Samuel Sanchez, who returned a positive doping test in August, had his B-sample confirmed Wednesday and was promptly fired by the BMC Racing Team.

Sanchez’s out-of-competition test revealed growth hormone-releasing peptide 2, or GHRP-2, a drug that increases a body’s level of growth hormone. Several cyclists have tested positive for the drug, among them Italian rider Stefano Pirazzi, who was given a four-year ban earlier this week.

The U.S.-based BMC Team said in a statement Wednesday that it was adhering to its zero-tolerance policy toward doping by terminating the Spaniard’s contract “with immediate effect.”

The 39-year-old Sanchez, who had been provisionally suspended, won gold at the 2008 Beijing Games.