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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.

2019 Tour will honor 1st victory of 5-time champion Merckx

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BRUSSELS (AP) The start of the 2019 Tour de France will be all about honoring Eddy Merckx in his hometown of Brussels.

Merckx, known as “The Cannibal” for his ferocious taste for victory, won the first of his five Tours in 1969. Half a century later, the Belgian great still sees it as one of the major accomplishments for a cyclist generally considered to be the greatest ever.

“I wore the yellow jersey 96 times. It is the best memory of my career. It still gives me goosebumps,” Merckx said during Tuesday’s presentation of the Grand Depart – the opening weekend of the three-week Tour.

Merckx also won a record 34 Tour stages and is among four riders who won the Tour a record five times. French riders Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain are the others.

Tour organizers said it will be the second time the race will set off from the Belgian capital, which hosted the race’s Grand Depart in 1958.

The 2019 race will also mark 100 years since the race leader’s yellow jersey was created.

When it comes to the first two stages on July 6-7, the iconic Wall of Geraardsbergen climb should take center stage.

The 192-kilometer (119-mile) first stage of the Tour will have the Wall, for decades the toughest climb in the Ronde of Flanders classic. The Wall will come early but the stage, which makes a big loop south of Brussels, is still set up for a sprint finish close to the royal palace.

It will also have its stretch of famed Flemish cobblestones and will pass through the hometown of soccer player Eden Hazard.

The second stage will be a 28-kilometer team time trial through the Belgian capital along its wide-open boulevards. The riders will also pass by St. Pieters-Woluwe in suburban Brussels, where Merckx lived as a child and where he got to pull on his first yellow jersey.

From Brussels, it is an easy trek south into nearby France for the rest of the race.

Peter Sagan wins prelude to Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Three-time world road racing champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia made an outstanding start to the 2018 cycling season Sunday when he won the People’s Choice Classic, a prelude to the first World Tour event of the season, the Tour Down Under.

Sagan beat star sprinters Andre Greipel of Germany and Caleb Ewan of Australia in a bunch sprint to win the 50.6 kilometer (31.4 mile) race over 22 laps of a street course in central Adelaide.

The win means Sagan will wear the tour leader’s ocher jersey in the first stage of the six stage Tour Down Under on Tuesday. Sunday’s race does not count toward general classification.

Ewan won the race in each of the past two years and Greipel is the only three-time winner. The 132-strong field that lined up for the race Sunday included seven former winners.