Arnaud Demare takes first place in Stage 1 of Paris-Nice

Leave a comment

BOIS D’ARCY, France (AP) — Frenchman Arnaud Demare won the first stage of the Paris-Nice race on Sunday, while two-time champions Alberto Contador and Richie Porte lost ground in windy conditions.

The veterans fell behind the main pack when heavy crosswinds split the peloton early in the stage.

“I didn’t think the pack would be split the way it was so early on in the day. My team and I were lucky to be near the front at the time,” said the 25-year-old Demare, who won last year’s Milan-San Remo classic. “I really enjoyed racing today. It’s great to be able to take part in races such as these.”

Porte fared slightly better than Contador, and the Australian is just under one minute behind Demare in 16th place overall. Contador — a two-time Tour de France winner — is 1:14 back in 20th place. Both are good climbers, however, and will be confident of closing the gap when the race reaches the mountains.

Frenchman Romain Bardet, another of the pre-race favorites, was disqualified from the race after being helped back into the pack by his team car following a crash, which is against race rules.

Demare held off countryman Julian Alaphilippe in a sprint to the line at the end of the 148.5-kilometer (92-mile) trek around Bois d’Arcy in the leafy suburbs of Paris.

“When Julian attacked near the line, I made a huge effort to catch him up,” Demare said. “I knew that (if) I managed to catch him, I would be quicker (in the sprint).”

Norwegian Alexander Kristoff finished in third place.

Monday’s second stage is a flat 195-kilometer route from Rochefort-en-Yvelines to Amilly in the Loire valley.

The race ends Sunday in the southern city of Nice.

World champ Peter Sagan to race in Tour Down Under

AP Photo
Leave a comment

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

AP Photo
Leave a comment

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.