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Michele Scarponi funeral to take place in Italy on Tuesday

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FILOTTRANO, Italy — The funeral of former Giro d’Italia winner Michele Scarponi will be on Tuesday in his hometown of Filottrano, near Ancona.

Scarponi, who won the Giro in 2011, died after a collision with a van while training near his home on Saturday. He was 37.

A service will be held in the town’s football stadium and will be officiated by Ancona cardinal, Edoardo Menichelli.

Italian National Olympic Committee President Giovanni Malago is expected to attend, along with the head of the Italian cycling federation, Renato Di Rocco, and numerous teammates and rivals, including Fabio Aru and Vincenzo Nibali.

Thousands of people have visited the chapel where Scarponi’s body lies.

Scarponi’s body was dressed in his Astana kit, while drawings by his four-year-old twin sons have been placed beside him in the coffin.

Scarponi was awarded the 2011 Giro trophy after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title because of doping.

The Italian had also faced doping sanctions. He was banned for 18 months in July 2007 following the long-running Operation Puerto doping scandal, while he served a three-month suspension from the end of 2012 after working with the banned physician Michele Ferrari.

Scarponi had been named as Astana’s leader for the upcoming Giro d’Italia, which starts in less than two weeks, after Aru pulled out with a knee injury.

Scarponi was one of the most liked riders on the circuit, with his sense of humor and jovial disposition. He often started training rides with his parrot on his shoulder, posting videos which quickly went viral.

The parrot, Frankie, has been seen perched on a signpost at the site of the accident, where flowers and tributes have been placed.

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.