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Sailing guru in as performance director at British Cycling

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MANCHESTER, England — One of the key figures behind Britain’s recent success in Olympic sailing has been hired as performance director at the country’s cycling federation.

Stephen Park’s appointment by British Cycling was announced on Friday, at a time of upheaval in the country’s most successful Olympic sport.

British Cycling is currently without a technical director after Shane Sutton’s resignation in April this year over allegations of discrimination. The organization has also been defending its integrity in recent weeks amid allegations of wrongdoing, which led to its leaders being questioned at British parliamentary doping hearings on Monday. UK Anti-Doping officials have also visited British Cycling headquarters.

The 48-year-old Park, who isn’t a specialist in cycling, becomes British Cycling’s first performance director since Dave Brailsford’s departure in April 2014 to concentrate solely on Team Sky. His main task will be to continue Britain’s dominance of Olympic cycling, with the country winning six gold medals from 10 track events at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

In his role as British Sailing’s Olympics manager, Park led Britain’s sailors to the top of the Olympic medal table in Rio and helped Britain amass 23 Olympic and Paralympic medals in his 15 years at the helm.

“Clearly cycling poses very different challenges to sailing,” Park said, “but it’s a sport I am very passionate about from a personal perspective.”

2019 Tour will honor 1st victory of 5-time champion Merckx

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BRUSSELS (AP) The start of the 2019 Tour de France will be all about honoring Eddy Merckx in his hometown of Brussels.

Merckx, known as “The Cannibal” for his ferocious taste for victory, won the first of his five Tours in 1969. Half a century later, the Belgian great still sees it as one of the major accomplishments for a cyclist generally considered to be the greatest ever.

“I wore the yellow jersey 96 times. It is the best memory of my career. It still gives me goosebumps,” Merckx said during Tuesday’s presentation of the Grand Depart – the opening weekend of the three-week Tour.

Merckx also won a record 34 Tour stages and is among four riders who won the Tour a record five times. French riders Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain are the others.

Tour organizers said it will be the second time the race will set off from the Belgian capital, which hosted the race’s Grand Depart in 1958.

The 2019 race will also mark 100 years since the race leader’s yellow jersey was created.

When it comes to the first two stages on July 6-7, the iconic Wall of Geraardsbergen climb should take center stage.

The 192-kilometer (119-mile) first stage of the Tour will have the Wall, for decades the toughest climb in the Ronde of Flanders classic. The Wall will come early but the stage, which makes a big loop south of Brussels, is still set up for a sprint finish close to the royal palace.

It will also have its stretch of famed Flemish cobblestones and will pass through the hometown of soccer player Eden Hazard.

The second stage will be a 28-kilometer team time trial through the Belgian capital along its wide-open boulevards. The riders will also pass by St. Pieters-Woluwe in suburban Brussels, where Merckx lived as a child and where he got to pull on his first yellow jersey.

From Brussels, it is an easy trek south into nearby France for the rest of the race.

Peter Sagan wins prelude to Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Three-time world road racing champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia made an outstanding start to the 2018 cycling season Sunday when he won the People’s Choice Classic, a prelude to the first World Tour event of the season, the Tour Down Under.

Sagan beat star sprinters Andre Greipel of Germany and Caleb Ewan of Australia in a bunch sprint to win the 50.6 kilometer (31.4 mile) race over 22 laps of a street course in central Adelaide.

The win means Sagan will wear the tour leader’s ocher jersey in the first stage of the six stage Tour Down Under on Tuesday. Sunday’s race does not count toward general classification.

Ewan won the race in each of the past two years and Greipel is the only three-time winner. The 132-strong field that lined up for the race Sunday included seven former winners.