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Tour de France to start on Passage du Gois in 2018

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PARIS — Riders in the 2018 Tour de France will set off from the Passage du Gois, a causeway that Atlantic Ocean tides cover twice a day.

With this year’s race set to start in the German city of Dusseldorf, cycling’s biggest event will return home for its “Grand Depart” in 2018.

On Tuesday, Tour organizers unveiled the first three stages of the 2018 route, which will start in the western Pays de La Loire region on June 30.

Stage 1 will take the peloton on a 195-kilometer ride from Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile to Fontenay-le-Comte on the windy roads of Vendee, which will stage the Grand Depart for the sixth time.

Sprinters will have another chance to grab the yellow jersey the next day between Mouilleron-Saint-Germain and La Roche-sur-Yon, a town that will host its first stage finish since 1938.

Stage 3 will be a 35-kilometer team time trial in Cholet, and Stage 4 will start from the posh sea resort of La Baule, with the peloton heading north.

The remainder of the route is to be announced in October at the official race presentation.

The Passage du Gois featured in the 2011 race.

The Gois is a four-kilometer road flooded by tide twice a day, linking the island of Noirmoutier to the mainland, and has contributed to race lore. In 1999, a handful of Tour favorites had their victory hopes ended in a massive crash on the Gois, which was still wet and slippery.

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.