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Alejandro Valverde eyes Tour of Catalonia title after Chris Froome fades

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REUS, Spain — Chris Froome fell out of contention for the Tour of Catalonia after ceding over 25 minutes to leader Alejandro Valverde during the sixth stage on Saturday.

A group attack that included Valverde’s Movistar broke away early and left Froome behind in the peloton. The three-time Tour de France winner, who entered the stage second in the classification at 21 seconds behind Valverde, was unable to close the gap and faded the rest of the way.

“On the first mountain the peloton broke apart, above all on the descent, and we caught Sky off guard,” Valverde said. “They couldn’t find a way to make up the ground.”

Froome’s Sky team tweeted before the stage was finished that “It’s game over at (hash)VoltaCatalunya.”

Daryl Impey of South Africa edged Valverde in a sprint finish to win the 189-kilometer (117-mile) ride from Tortosa to Reus that crossed snow-covered mountainous terrain in 4 1/2 hours.

Valverde, who took the lead after winning Friday’s stage, increased his advantage to 53 seconds over nearest chaser Alberto Contador.

Valverde leads the race despite being penalized one minute on Wednesday after race officials ruled that some Movistar riders pushed one another on Tuesday during the team time trial.

Valverde can claim a second title at the event if he protects his advantage during Sunday’s 139-kilometer (86-mile) route finishing at a hilltop overlooking Barcelona. He won the weeklong race in northeastern Spain in 2009.

“In theory we shouldn’t have too many difficulties, but I am sure there will be some attacks,” Valverde said about the final stage.

Australia’s Michael Matthews wins Tour of Romandie prologue

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FRIBOURG, Switzerland (AP) Michael Matthews of Australia won the opening Tour of Romandie prologue on Tuesday for his first victory of the season.

Matthews was one second faster than Tom Bohli of Switzerland on the 4-kilometer (2-1/2 mile) route around Fribourg. Primoz Roglic of Slovenia was third.

After a stellar 2017, when he won two Tour de France stages and the green jersey as most consistent finisher, Matthews had a low-key European spring season.

The Team Sunweb rider told Swiss broadcaster RTS it was a “massive relief” to get his first win.

The six-day race through Switzerland’s French-speaking region continues Wednesday with a 166-kilometer (103-mile) ride from Fribourg to Delemont. It includes three category 2 climbs.

Andy Rihs, Swiss owner of cycling, soccer teams, dies at 75

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BERN, Switzerland (AP) Andy Rihs, a Swiss businessman who owned the BMC Racing cycling team and Young Boys soccer club, has died. He was 75.

Rihs died Wednesday in Zurich after “a patient and valiantly endured illness,” the BMC team said Thursday in a statement.

“Our grief is indescribable, but we will carry on his values,” the team said, praising Rihs for his “generosity, his sense of humor, and his infectious laugh.”

Rihs’s death comes with Young Boys close to winning its first Swiss league title in 32 years. Young Boys leads by 11 points with six matches left.

“Andy, thank you for everything. We will miss you,” Young Boys said in a statement.

Rihs’s brother, Hans-Ueli, is also an owner of the club and Stade de Suisse in Bern, known locally as Wankdorf. The stadium staged the 1954 World Cup final.

As BMC owner, Rihs secured a Tour de France title five years after his previous team was involved in a doping scandal. Cadel Evans of Australia wore BMC’s black and red colors to victory in the 2011 Tour.

In 2006, the Rihs-backed Phonak team disbanded after American rider Floyd Landis was stripped of the Tour title.