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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.

Valverde dedicates his Liege-Bastogne-Liege win to Scarponi

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LIEGE, Belgium (AP) Spaniard Alejandro Valverde dedicated his win at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic on Sunday to Italian cyclist Michele Scarponi, who died after a collision with a van while training on Saturday at the age of 37.

Valverde caught Irishman Dan Martin about 200 meters (yards) from the end and comfortably beat him in a sprint to the line. Polish rider Michal Kwiatkowski finished in third place, crossing three seconds behind them on the 258-kilometer (160-mile) route.

Valverde is one of the best classics riders in cycling history and his latest win comes four days after winning the Fleche Wallonne (Walloon Arrow) for a record fifth time. Martin was second in that race as well, which was also run over hilly terrain.

Valverde, who turns 37 on Tuesday, has also secured victories at the Tour of Andalusia, Tour of Basque Country and Tour of Catalonia this season. His win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege equaled Italian Moreno Argentin’s tally and is one behind Belgian great Eddy Merckx’s record.

But Valverde’s mind was far away from his own achievements.

“My first words are to dedicate this victory to Michele Scarponi, who was a great friend of mine,” a tearful Valverde said. “My prize money will go to his family.”

A minute’s applause for Scarponi, the Giro d’Italia winner in 2011, was held prior to the start of the race.

Valverde wins Fleche Wallonne for record 5th time

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HUY, Belgium (AP) Alejandro Valverde of Spain won the Fleche Wallonne (Walloon Arrow) for a record fifth time after a fourth straight title in the Belgian classic on Wednesday.

Valverde continued his excellent form with an attack that was unanswered by his rivals 250 meters from the finish in the brutal Mur de Huy, one of cycling’s most difficult climbs.

Daniel Martin of Ireland was second and Dylan Teuns of Belgium completed the podium.

Valverde, who will turn 37 next week, last year became the first rider to win the Fleche Wallonne four times. He also won the race in 2006, 2014 and 2015.

The Spanish rider has been enjoying a great start to the season with victories at the Tour of Andalusia, Tour of Basque Country and Tour of Catalonia.

The Mur de Huy has a 26 percent gradient at its steepest point, and Valverde knows it perfectly. Right from the start of the climb, he remained well-positioned at the front and waited for the right time to surge ahead with a few hundred meters left.

The major spring classics end with Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege race. Valverde will be among the favorites, having already won it three times. The race is run over similarly hilly terrain in southern Belgium.