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Alejandro Valverde takes Tour of Catalonia lead

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BANYOLES, Spain (AP) Alejandro Valverde took the overall lead in the Tour of Catalonia on Tuesday after fellow Movistar rider Jose Joaquin Rojas was penalized for helping teammates during the team time trial.

Movistar set the best time in the 41-kilometer (25-mile) time trial, but judges later said Rojas was among the team’s riders who pushed each other during the Tour’s second stage and gave him a three-minute penalty. Two other riders also were penalized.

Movistar dominated the time trial, finishing two seconds ahead of BMC Racing Team.

Tour de France winner Chris Froome finished 46 seconds off the lead with Team Sky. Froome is 18th in the overall standings.

The week-long race in northeastern Spain concludes on Sunday in Barcelona.

Riders on Wednesday face a stage of 188 kilometers (116 miles) from Mataro to La Molina.

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.