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British cyclist Hall dies in accident during Australian race

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CANBERRA, Australia — Veteran British endurance cyclist Mike Hall died early Friday after being struck by a car during the Indian Pacific Wheel race from Perth to Sydney, event officials said.

Organizers called off the remainder of the race several hours after the accident.

Police from the Australian Capital Territory said a male cyclist died at the scene following the collision on the Monaro Highway near Williamsdale. The cyclist was traveling north, just inside the ACT border with New South Wales state, when the accident occurred.

More than six hours after the accident, race officials, after notifying his next of kin, confirmed in a statement that the cyclist was Hall, 35, of Harrogate, England. They called his death “a great loss to the global cycling community.”

Hall was in second place in the race when his global positioning satellite (GPS) tracker stopped moving near the scene of where the collision was reported at 6:30 a.m. local time Friday.

The 5,500-kilometer (3,400-mile) race began on March 18 in Fremantle, Western Australia, south of Perth. The leading rider, Belgium’s Kristof Allegaert, had been scheduled to reach the finish line at the Sydney Opera House on Friday.

But he and other riders were taken from the race route following the decision to stop it.

“The Indian Pacific Wheel Race has been cancelled with immediate effect in light of this morning’s tragic incident,” race organizers said in a statement before confirming Hall’s death. “This is a difficult time for everyone involved, along with their families, and their well-being is our primary concern.”

Police said the accident occurred before sunrise.

“I can suggest, given the nature of the collision, an investigation into the circumstances would suggest the rider of the push bike died at the scene,” said ACT police Sgt. Chris Meagher. “(The driver) will be spoken to later by our Crash Investigation Reconstruction Team. It’s early in the morning, it’s dark; there was no fog at the time.”

The CyclingTips website said Friday that Hall was regarded as one of the world’s best ultra-endurance racers and held the record for the fastest completion of the Trans-Am and Tour Divide bike-packing races in the United States. He was the founder of the Transcontinental race in Europe.

About 70 riders from around the world started the Australian race, with Hall one of the favorites. The race was unsupported, meaning competitors did not have back-up or support teams travelling with them.

Race officials said a tribute ride was being planned for Hall in Sydney on Sunday.

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.