Cavendish back racing with Tour de France still possible

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) Mark Cavendish returned to cycling for the first time since March on Thursday at the Tour of Slovenia, and the sprint star remains hopeful he can start the Tour de France next month.

Cavendish had not raced since Milano-Sanremo in March. He came down with mononucleosis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus in April, forcing him to the sideline during his typical Tour prep.

The 32-year-old British cyclist has 30 stage wins in France, four shy of Eddy Merckx’s record.

This year’s Tour begins with a short time trial July 1 in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Cavendish said he’s “fit as I can be after four weeks of training,” but his health will be closely monitored during the four-day Tour of Slovenia. Sam Bennett won Thursday’s opening stage in a sprint.

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.