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Tejay van Garderen leads Tour of Catalonia; Alejandro Valverde wins Stage 3

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LA MOLINA, Spain — Alejandro Valverde won the third stage of the Tour of Catalonia but lost the overall lead to American rider Tejay van Garderen after the Spaniard’s Movistar team was penalized on Wednesday.

Valverde beat Daniel Martin of Ireland in the final meters of the 188-kilometers (116-mile) stage from Mataro to La Molina, but fell to fourth in the overall standings because of a team sanction handed out earlier in the day.

Valverde and the rest of the Movistar riders were penalized one minute because some of them pushed each other in Tuesday’s team time trial in Banyoles. Judges initially penalized only three riders, including stage winner Jose Joaquin Rojas, but eventually decided to extend the punishment to the rest of the team.

Van Garderen, who had loudly complained about Movistar on Tuesday, finished eighth on Wednesday and opened up a lead of 41 seconds over BMC Racing Team teammate Samuel Sanchez of Spain.

Valverde is 45 seconds off the lead.

“The team did great,” Valverde said. “All I had to do was sprint at the end.”

Tour de France winner Chris Froome was four seconds behind Valverde in the overall standings.

“I’m here to suffer this week, to gain from hard racing and soak it all up,” Froome said.

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

Riders on Thursday face a stage of 194 kilometers (120 miles) from Llivia to Igualada.

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.