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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.

French challenger Lappartient takes over as UCI president

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BERGEN, Norway — French official David Lappartient has beaten British incumbent Brian Cookson in a vote to become president of the International Cycling Union.

Lappartient, the European Cycling Union leader, won the vote 37-8 at the UCI’s annual congress.

Lappartient promised to “regain influence in the Olympic movement, where it has been losing ground.”

Track cycling at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be raced in a velodrome 130 kilometers (80 miles) outside the city, though two more medals were added in men’s and women’s Madison events.

Lappartient also promised to push for bans on some medications.

Elected in 2013 when cycling’s image was battered by doping scandals, Cookson told voters: “I’ve delivered change, I’ve restored the UCI’s credibility.”

Giro d’Italia to open 2018 race in Israel

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JERUSALEM — The Giro d’Italia cycling race will open next year’s event in Israel, marking the first time any leg of the sport’s Grand Tours will take place outside of Europe.

Race organizers say details of the exact route of the three-day leg in Israel will be announced next week. Italian and Israeli ministers will make the announcement, along with Spanish great Alberto Contador.

More than 175 of the world’s best cyclists will arrive in Israel for the race, one of cycling’s top three stage races along with the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta. For the first time in its 101-year history, the Giro will begin outside Europe.

Viewed by hundreds of millions across the globe, this will be the biggest sporting event ever held in Israel.