Fuglsang wins thrilling stage 6 at Criterium du Dauphine

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LA MOTTE-SERVOLEX, France — Danish cyclist Jakob Fuglsang won the first mountain stage of the Criterium du Dauphine race in a thrilling finish on Friday, while Australian Richie Porte took the overall lead ahead of archrival Chris Froome with two stages remaining.

Stage six was a 147.5-kilometer (91.5-mile) slog from Le Parc des Oiseaux Villars-les-Dombes. It featured a grueling climb up Mont du Chat near the end, followed by a downhill finish to La Motte-Servolex.

Fuglsang attacked first heading into the last kilometer, but was caught by Porte, Froome and Italian Fabio Aru — who is Fuglsang’s Astana teammate.

In a pulsating charge to the line, Fuglsang held them off for a notable victory given the caliber of the opposition.

“It’s amazing to find yourself in front alongside two favorites for the Tour de France,” the 32-year-old Fuglsang said. “It’s great to win here for the first time.”

Porte finished second, with Froome third ahead of Aru.

“I’d be lying if I said I’m happy with third place. I battled hard for the stage win,” Froome said. “I worked a bit too hard in the last kilometer to chase down Fuglsang, and I started my sprint from way too far out.”

All four got the same time of 3 hours, 41 minutes, 48 seconds.

Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde was dropped on the big climb and finished fifth, 50 seconds behind.

The 32-year-old Porte is 39 seconds ahead of three-time champion Chris Froome — his former right-hand man at Team SKY — and 1:15 clear of Fuglsang in the standings. Despite losing time, Valverde is dangerously poised at 1:20 back in fourth.

Overnight leader Thomas De Gendt of Belgium paid for his lack of climbing ability and dropped down to 30th place, more than eight minutes behind.

Froome, who is the same age as Porte, is looking to win the race for the third straight year and fourth time overall. His first win here came in 2013, the year he went on to win the first of his three Tour titles. He also won the Tour in 2015 and ’16, mirroring his results at the Criterium.

Froome and Porte will battle it out again in the mountains on Saturday, on a famed climb they both know very well.

Stage seven, starting from Aoste, is over 168 kilometers (104 miles) and ends with an ascent of Alpe d’Huez — a climb with huge status on the Tour.

Sunday’s eighth and final stage is another fearsome mountain trek, with three big climbs and ending with an ascent of Plateau de Solaison.

Whoever comes out on top by Sunday will be confident of victory at the Tour, which begins on July 1.

“I’m pretty happy to be at the top with Richie, he’s in unbelievable form. He’s the best climber at the moment,” Froome said. “The Tour de France isn’t too far away now. I still have a bit of work to do, but I’m on the right track.”

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.