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Australia’s Ewan wins 7th stage of Giro; Jungels keeps lead

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ALBEROBELLO, Italy — After three top-10 finishes in the opening week, Caleb Ewan of Australia finally won a stage in the Giro d’Italia on Friday.

The Australian rider with the Orica Scott team claimed Stage 7 in a sprint finish for his first career Giro victory while Bob Jungels held on to the pink jersey.

Ewan finished half a wheel ahead of Colombian rider Fernando Gaviria to erase memories of his second-place result in Stage 1 and ninth- and eighth-place finishes in Stages 2 and 3, respectively.

“It feels so good after the first few disappointments I’ve had. I don’t think I’ve felt so good before,” Ewan said.

Ewan also won a stage in the Spanish Vuelta two years ago.

Sam Bennett of Ireland crossed third while sprinting standout Andre Greipel was fourth after the mainly flat but lengthy 224-kilometer (139-mile) route from Castrovillari to Alberobello, which featured an undulating final 40 kilometers.

Jungels, of Luxembourg, maintained his six-second advantage over Geraint Thomas of Wales. Fellow Briton Adam Yates remained four seconds further back, with most of the overall favorites.

“It’s not a disappointment for our team to not win with Fernando Gaviria today, because he did a great sprint and the team helped him,” Jungels said. “It’s no shame to lose against Caleb Ewan who is very fast.”

Located in the southern region of Puglia, Alberobello is known for its trullo dwellings made from white limestone with conical roofs, and is designated a World Heritage site.

The stage began in the Calabria region and three riders – Simone Ponzi, Dmitriy Kozontchuk and Giuseppe Fonzi – broke away from the pack almost immediately. Ponzi quickly had a mechanical problem, leaving Kozontchuk and Fonzi at the front.

The duo swiftly built a lead of four minutes and stayed in front for five hours before being caught by the main pack with 18 kilometers to go.

There was little other excitement until Slovenian rider Kristijan Koren attacked on an uphill section shortly after the five-kilometer mark.

Team Sky quickly chased down Koren to protect Thomas’ position, then it was whittled down to only a handful of riders contesting the final sprint.

Ewan had the best line coming around the final corner and narrowly held off the charging Gaviria, while Greipel appeared to lack some energy.

“I had to do some work with three kilometers to go so I was a little tired for the sprint,” Ewan said. “But Luka (Mezgec) did a great lead out, so it was perfect.”

Jungels should face more of a test over the next two stages.

Stage 8 on Saturday is a 189-kilometer (117-mile) leg from Molfetta to Peschici that features a short, steep uphill finish. Then a serious climb to Blockhaus comes a day later.

“This year all the finals are tricky,” Jungels said of the concluding kilometers. “All day long it was pretty relaxed and then the last 10 kilometers were crazy.”

The 100th Giro ends in Milan on May 28.

Cycling’s top riders set for Tour of California next month

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The top men’s and women’s teams will compete next month in the Amgen Tour of California, the premier U.S. cycling race.

The men will cover 645 miles over seven stages from Long Beach to Sacramento from May 13 to May 19. The women will have three of the top five teams for their three-day, 187-mile race that starts May 17 in Elk Grove.

Race owner AEG announced Thursday that Pete Sagan will ride for the BORA-hansgrohe team while Mark Cavendish will go for Team Dimension Data and be joined by Rafal Majka.

Tony Gallopin of AG2R La Mondiale is in the men’s field. So is LottoNL-Jumbo’s Nielson Powless, the race’s best young rider in 2016.

The women feature 2016 champion Megan Guarnier of USA Cycling National Team, Katie Hall of UnitedHealthcare and Kasia Niewiadoma of Canyon/SCRAM.

Niki Terpstra wins Tour of Flanders

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OUDENAARDE, Belgium — Niki Terpstra continued his fine form by winning the Tour of Flanders classic with a well-timed late attack on Sunday, becoming the first Dutch rider in more than 30 years to win the race.

Terpstra caught a mini-breakaway group of three riders on the final climb, and the Quick-Step Floors rider moved too far ahead to be caught. Danish rider Mads Pedersen finished second and Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert – last year’s winner – was third.

“It’s a dream come true. Winning Paris-Roubaix (in 2014) and now the Tour of Flanders,” Terpstra said. “Those two races were always a big dream for me when I was young kid. I was already crazy about those two races, I can’t describe how happy I am.”

The previous Dutchman to win the Tour of Flanders was Adri van der Poel in 1986, and this was Terpstra’s second classics win in quick succession. He also won the E3 Harelbeke on March 23.

As he neared the line in Oudenaarde, after 263 kilometers (163 miles) of grueling riding in tricky conditions, Terpstra looked round three times to see where Pedersen was. Finally, he knew victory was assured and raised his arms in the air as he free-wheeled the last 20 meters.

Along with the rain and chilly temperatures, riders weren’t helped by a stray car driving on the course in the Flemish town of Aalst, about 60 kilometers into the race.

Startled riders cautiously navigated around the slow-moving gray car, or moved aside. After a few moments, the driver finally managed to get off the course.

The race, also known as De Ronde, is one of five higher-profile classics along with Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia.

It features 18 short but punishing climbs and five cobblestone sections.

Terpstra caught the front three – which included Pedersen – on the final grueling Paterberg cobble climb and opened up a comfortable lead.

Earlier, a crash on a slippery road took down some 10 riders, sending one of them rolling into a roadside ditch. It was similar to a crash during last year’s race, which took down 2016 winner Peter Sagan. He was not caught up in it this time.

Sagan, who won the Gent-Wevelgem classic for the third time last Sunday, finished sixth.

With 40 kilometers left, the front trio of Pedersen and Dutch pair Sebastian Langeveld and Dylan van Baarle led by about 30 seconds.

Approaching the final 25 kilometers, Italian rider Vicenzo Nibali, the 2014 Tour de France champion, launched a surprise attack. But he did not get far before being caught by the pack.

After catching the front three, Terpstra opened up a lead of 40 seconds. Sagan attacked with 16 kilometers left, deciding it was time to chase him down. But he realized it was a futile chase and eased up with eight kilometers left.

Paris-Roubaix, known as the “Hell of the North” for its even more challenging cobbles, is next Sunday. Last year, Olympic road champion Greg Van Avermaet overtook Zdenek Stybar just before the line in a thrilling finish.

But Terpstra will be the rider to stop.