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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.

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.