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Damien Howson maintains lead after Stage 2 of Herald Sun Tour

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Damien Howson kept the Herald Sun Tour lead on Friday after overcoming a tire puncture late in the 165.6-kilometer second stage of the four-stage race.

The tire blowout with 20 kilometers to go on the stage from Mount Beauty to Beechworth put Howson on the defensive, but his Orica-Scott teammates dropped back to help him and he did not lose any time to his main rivals.

“Trying to remain calm was pretty difficult, but I had them all around me,” Howson said of his teammates. Mitch Docker gave Howson his front wheel when the Tour leader sustained the puncture.

Three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome’s British teammate Luke Rowe won the stage with a solo breakaway for his first professional stage win since 2012.

It follows teammate Danny van Poppel’s prologue time-trial win, but Froome gained no time on Howson and even went down one place on the overall standings.

Howson retained his 38-second overall lead over compatriot Jai Hindley. Froome stayed one minute and 12 seconds behind Howson, but dropped from fifth to sixth overall.

Froome also showed some racing protocol on the climb, reported by race officials to have eased off the pace and honoring cycling’s unwritten rule not to attack the leader if he had experienced a mechanical problem.

The Tour continues on Saturday with a 167.7-kilometer stage from Benalla to Mitchelton, followed by the concluding stage Sunday at Kinglake north of Melbourne.

Facing lawsuit, Armstrong says he ‘loved’ wearing Postal

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AUSTIN, Texas —¬†Former cyclist Lance Armstrong says he “loved” representing the U.S. Postal Service, even as the government sues to get back the millions it spent sponsoring his teams.

After years of legal wrangling, the federal government’s $100 million lawsuit against Armstrong is expected to go to trial later this year. The Postal Service sponsored Armstrong’s team when he was six of his seven Tour de France titles from 1999-2005.

Armstrong later admitted using performance-enhancing drugs and was stripped of those titles.

Speaking on his podcast Tuesday , Armstrong said it was an honor to wear the Postal Service jersey as he competed in Europe and to hear the national anthem played when he won.

Armstrong says the lawsuit can’t “undo all of the good that was done all of those years.” Armstrong claims the government made more money in publicity from the sponsorship than the $32 million it paid his teams.

Russia recruiting Australian cyclist for Olympic team

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MOSCOW — Russia is hoping to recruit former world champion track cyclist Shane Perkins of Australia in a push for medals at the 2020 Olympics.

Perkins said Wednesday in a Facebook statement that he “will now be riding for Russia,” alongside a picture of himself in Russian team gear.

“`The Russian Cycling Federation has given me another opportunity to chase my dreams of Olympic representation in Tokyo 2020 which has special significance to me as my father (Darryl Perkins) raced the Olympics in Tokyo 1964,” he added.

Perkins said his move had the backing of Australian cycling officials. However, Russia said the switch isn’t yet complete.

RCF general secretary Yuri Kucheryavy told Russia’s R-Sport news agency that Perkins was training with Russia’s sprinters recently and “we’re interested in him for the team sprint, where we need a third person,” as well as the keirin.

“We still need to sort everything out officially,” Kucheryavy added.

Perkins has won two gold medals at the track world championships and Olympic individual sprint bronze in 2012, though he didn’t make the team for last year’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Russia has long been open to naturalizing athletes from neighboring countries but stepped up its program for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, bringing in South Korean speedskater Viktor Ahn and U.S. snowboarder Vic Wild, both of whom won gold medals.

Other Russian recruits include former world boxing champion Roy Jones Jr., who was awarded Russian nationality by a special order of President Vladimir Putin.