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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.

Froome finishes 10th in Ruta del Sol, Wellens wins

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MADRID (AP) Chris Froome finished Spain’s Ruta del Sol race in 10th place behind winner Tim Wellens on Sunday.

The five-stage race in southern Spain was Froome’s first event since the four-time Tour de France winner was found to have failed a doping test at last year’s Spanish Vuelta.

Froome, who denies any wrongdoing, has been ordered to explain to the International Cycling Union why a urine sample he provided at the Spanish Vuelta in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol at twice the permitted level.

Wellens, a Belgian rider for Lotto-Soudal, defended his lead over the final day’s time trial.

Wout Poels, of Froome’s Sky Team, was second at eight seconds behind.

Froome, who won the event in 2015, finished 1 minute, 57 seconds behind. He started the time trial on the final day in 14th after a puncture toward the end of Saturday’s fourth stage.

Froome returns to racing despite doping investigation

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MALAGA, Spain (AP) Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome is returning to racing on Wednesday despite being under investigation by cycling’s world governing body for failing a doping test.

Froome is participating in the five-day Ruta del Sol in southern Spain, an event he won in 2015.

“I know I have done nothing wrong, that’s my starting point,” Froome said. “There is a process in place for me to be up to demonstrate that, and that’s obviously what I intend to do.”

Froome has been ordered to explain to the International Cycling Union why a urine sample he provided at the Spanish Vuelta in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol at twice the permitted level.

He said he has received a lot of support from other riders so far, and that he is trying to solve the issue as fast as possible.

“I do believe that when all the facts are out there I think people will see it from my point of view,” Froome said.

If found guilty of doping, the British rider could lose his Vuelta title and be suspended for a long period.