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Valverde adds Basque Country title to superb start to season

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EIBAR, Spain — Alejandro Valverde won the Tour of Basque Country after holding off defending champion Alberto Contador in the decisive time trial on Saturday.

Valverde won the six-day race in northern Spain by 17 seconds from Contador, the two-time Tour de France winner.

The win came just two weeks after the 36-year-old Valverde beat Contador and reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome to claim the Tour of Catalonia.

“There can be no doubt about it, this is the best start to a season of my career,” Valverde said. “With everything that I have won I will head into the classics incredibly calm. If I win one, then I won’t have to race the rest of the year!”

Primoz Roglic won the final stage, a 27-kilometer (17-mile) time trial starting and finishing in Eibar, in 36 minutes. It was the Slovenian’s second stage win this week. Valverde was the next fastest at nine seconds behind, followed by Ion Izagirre and Contador.

Valverde, a Movistar rider, took the lead on the mountainous fifth stage on Friday.

Valverde also won the five-day Tour of Andalusia and single-day Tour of Murcia, also in Spain, this season.

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.