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2018 Giro has eight uphill finishes on road to Rome

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MILAN — Next year’s Giro features two individual time trials, eight mountain finishes and eight stages for the sprinters in a balanced route that appears to suit four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome, who will race in an attempt to win his third Grand Tour in a row.

Organizers unveiled the route of the 2018 Giro d’Italia in a televised ceremony in Milan on Wednesday.

The 101st edition of the race runs from May 4-17 and consists of 21 days of racing, totaling 3,546.2 kilometers (2203.6 miles) with 44,000 meters of vertical elevation.

Here are some aspects of the 2018 race:

CONTROVERSIAL START

A Grand Tour will start outside Europe for the first time, with the opening three stages of the Giro being held in Israel.

Organizers have been forced to navigate a tricky obstacle course, recognizing political sensitivities.

The route will not go through any land considered occupied by the international community – meaning it will circumvent the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as parts of a future independent state.

However, a group of about 15 protesters held Palestinian flags and posters criticizing the Giro outside the building hosting Wednesday’s presentation.

The Giro will start with a 9.7km individual time trial in Jerusalem before two stages set to suit the sprinters – a 167km leg from Haifa to Tel Aviv and then 229km from Be’er Sheva to Eilat.

The race will then transfer to Italy, and the island of Sicily, on an early rest day on May 7.

CAPITAL END

Rome will host the final stage of the Giro for the first time since 2009.

The 11.8km circuit of the center of Rome will be repeated 10 times and take in many historical sites. However, it will not visit the Vatican before the finish line at the Fori Imperiali, under the Colosseum.

It is likely to be more of a procession, with the race decided in the mountains earlier in the week.

“After such a challenging route, we will try to alleviate the pain of the athletes with the beauties of our city,” Rome mayor Virginia Raggi said.

Rome scrapped bids to host the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games because of financial concerns. Raggi was instrumental in the decision the second time and a joke was made during the Giro presentation that she had only accepted to host the Giro finish because organizers would fill the many holes in the city’s roads.

“We are trying to give back to Rome a lot of visibility in sport,” Raggi said. “We want to continue bringing great sports events to Rome.”

UPHILL FINISHES

There are eight summit finishes in next year’s Giro, including those at the end of three successive stages in what will surely be a decisive final week.

This year’s edition had just four, one more than the 2017 Tour de France.

There are three uphill finishes in the first nine days of racing and the first comes on stage six, with a 14.1km climb up the slopes of Mount Etna.

The final mountain stage of next year’s race packs 4,500 meters of vertical elevation into just three climbs and ends with a 19.2km climb in Cervinia.

SCARPONI TRIBUTE

The 11th stage of the Giro will honor 2011 winner Michele Scarponi, who died in a collision with a van during a training ride in April.

The route from Assisi to Osimo will pass by his house.

Scarponi, who was one of the most liked riders on the circuit, had two young twin boys. He died aged 37.

“If I think about Michele I can’t help but smile,” two-time Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali said. “I still miss him. It would have been lovely to have him fighting next to me on the Zoncolan.”

Scarponi was awarded the 2011 Giro trophy after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title because of doping.

“Michele was a friend, thinking about him always makes me smile,” Contador said. “Even if he was exhausted, he’d continue making jokes.”

Sagan cleared by UCI over Tour de France disqualification

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PARIS (AP) The UCI ruled Tuesday that Peter Sagan did not intentionally elbow Mark Cavendish during a sprint finish at the Tour de France in a crash that led to the Slovak rider’s disqualification.

The governing body of cycling said in a statement that it has ended its legal dispute with the three-time world champion, a few hours before a scheduled hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Sagan was sent home from the three-week race after clashing with his British rival during the fourth stage. The incident forced Cavendish to abandon with a broken shoulder.

Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team immediately appealed the race jury’s decision to allow its rider to finish the race but the request was denied by CAS.

“Having considered the materials submitted in the CAS proceedings, including video footage that was not available at the time when the race jury had disqualified Peter Sagan, the parties agreed that the crash was an unfortunate and unintentional race incident,” the UCI said.

UCI president David Lappartient said lessons will be drawn from the case and wants a “support commissaire” to assist race jury members “with special video expertise” at the main events of the UCI World Tour from next season.

“The past is already forgotten. It’s all about improving our sport in the future,” Sagan said. “I am happy that my case will lead to positive developments, because it is important for our sport to make fair and comprehensible decisions, even if emotions are sometimes heated up.”

Sagan’s explanation for extending his right elbow into Cavendish’s path was that he was just trying to stay upright. The crash occurred about 50 meters from the end of the stage and Cavendish slammed into the barriers along the road, with two other riders plowing over the British sprint specialist, a winner of 30 Tour stages.

Cavendish said at the time his rival’s move didn’t appear malicious.

“It has always been our goal to make clear that Peter had not caused Mark Cavendish’s fall. This was Peter’s position from Day 1,” Bora-Hansgrohe manager Ralph Denk said. “No one wants riders to fall or get hurt but the incident in Vittel was a race accident as can happen in the course of a sprint.”

Judge sets limits on key testimony in Armstrong lawsuit

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) A federal judge has set some limits on key evidence and testimony in Lance Armstrong’s upcoming $100 million civil trial, including harm inflicted on former team sponsor U.S. Postal Service and whether the government should have known the cyclist and his team were cheating to win when it signed the deal.

Armstrong faces a 2018 trial as the federal government seeks to recover more than $30 million the Postal Service paid to sponsor his team for several Tour de France victories. Those wins were stripped away after Armstrong’s 2013 confession to using steroids other banned performance-enhancing drugs and methods.

If liable for damages, Armstrong could be subject to penalties in the range of $100 million.

Tuesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington sets ground rules for evidence that both sides want to present regarding harm to the Postal Service, doping use in cycling and the character and motivation of Armstrong and his former teammate Floyd Landis, who initially filed the lawsuit in 2010 and stands to gain up to 25 percent of the damages awarded.

The ruling bars the government’s expert witnesses from testifying that the Postal Service got no financial benefit whatsoever from its sponsorship, a decision Armstrong’s lawyers consider a key victory for arguing whether the agency was actually damaged by his doping. The government experts will be allowed to testify as to whether the agency was damaged beyond the value of its original sponsorship.

Lawyers for Armstrong and Landis both claimed victory in the ruling.

“We think it’s great. The court says very clearly the government cannot pursue that the sponsorship had no value because of team doping. They have to prove damages to Postal Service after 2013 and Lance’s confession,” said Elliott Peters, an attorney for Armstrong.

“The rulings largely fall our way,” said Landis attorney Paul D. Scott. “The court left open a clear path for the government and Landis to prove up damages arising from negative publicity associated with the disclosure of Armstrong’s doping and concealment.”

The judge will also allow one of Armstrong’s experts to testify on the rampant use of doping in cycling in Armstrong’s era, opening up a line of defense that the government should have known, or did know, that Armstrong’s team was cheating and sponsored his team anyway.

The judge put some limits on a key piece of Armstrong evidence: reports commissioned by the Postal Service that said the sponsorship had “earned” the agency more than $100 million in global exposure. Most of those reports were ruled inadmissible, but Armstrong will be allowed to show that Postal Service officials had accepted the reports’ findings.

Armstrong’s lawyers will also be allowed – with limits – to question Landis’ credibility and potential financial motivation for filing the lawsuit. Landis himself was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for doping.

The government will be allowed to call as witnesses Betsy Andreu and former Tour de France winner Greg LeMond. Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, provided the first sworn testimony of doping allegations against Armstrong in a 2005 lawsuit. LeMond has publicly clashed with both Armstrong and Landis.

Tuesday’s ruling also allows the government to bring evidence about Armstrong’s relationship with other sponsors, such as Nike and Trek, that dropped him after the doping scandal broke.