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Russia and New Zealand win gold at UCI Track Cycling World Championships

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HONG KONG — Russia and New Zealand won the first gold medals at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships on Wednesday.

The top-ranked Russian women’s team of Anastasia Voinova and Daria Shemeleva won their second world title in the team sprint.

“We worked hard to win today,” Shemeleva said, speaking through a translator.

The Australian team of Kaarle Mcculloch and Stephanie Morton took silver and Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel of Germany got bronze at the Hong Kong Veledrome.

The New Zealand men’s team of Ethan Mitchel, Sam Webster and Edward Dawkins – the Olympic silver medalists – retained their sprint title. The Netherlands finished in second and France won bronze.

After losing out on the Olympic gold last year in Rio de Janeiro, the Kiwis are already looking ahead to 2020.

“Tokyo is always in the back of our mind,” Dawkins said. “Every race is a mini Tokyo. Every race is as if we were there putting ourselves under the same amount of pressure. So when it comes down to racing on that day we’re not overwhelmed by it.”

In the women’s 10-kilometer scratch race, top-ranked Rachele Barbieri of Italy won gold. Elinor Barker of Britain was second, followed by Jolien D’hoore of Belgium in third.

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.