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After Giro crash, Thomas back to support Froome in Tour

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PARIS (AP) Chris Froome will have support rider Geraint Thomas alongside him again as he pursues a fourth Tour de France title in five years.

Thomas opened the year aiming for victory in the Giro d’Italia but was forced to abandon that race because of injuries sustained in a crash caused by a police motorbike.

Thomas recently returned in the Route du Sud and gives Team Sky a second overall option if Froome struggles.

Also named to Sky’s squad Thursday were: Sergio Henao, Vasil Kiryienka, Christian Knees, Michal Kwiatkowski, Mikel Landa, Mikel Nieve and Luke Rowe.

Landa was injured in the same Giro crash as Thomas but stayed in the race, winning the 19th stage and posting three more podium finishes to claim the mountains classification.

Henao and Landa should also escort Froome in the mountains.

Froome won the Tour in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

“Aiming for that fourth victory has given me a lot of motivation,” Froome said. “To me, each Tour tells a different story. Every Tour is a different battle in terms of getting that yellow jersey and then trying to hold on to it.”

Froome preceded each of his Tour victories by winning the Criterium du Dauphine but he finished only fourth in the warm-up race this year – with former Sky teammate Richie Porte taking victory. But the Kenyan-born British rider believes he’s still the man to beat.

“We’re ready as a team and I can’t wait for the Tour to start now. Honestly, I just love it. It’s a feeling that you don’t get from any other race,” Froome said.

Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain share the record with five Tour wins each – after Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven victories for doping.

“To win the Tour once is a huge achievement, but to win it a fourth time would be remarkable,” Sky team principal Dave Brailsford said. “We’ve selected a strong and experienced lineup who will support (Froome), and we’ll be looking to use the strength of the team to our advantage.”

The Tour begins July 1 in Duesseldorf and concludes in Paris three weeks later.

Slovenia’s Jan Polanc wins fourth stage of Giro d’Italia

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MOUNT ETNA, Italy (AP) Slovenian rider Jan Polanc won stage four of the Giro d’Italia on the summit of Mount Etna on Tuesday.

The UAE Team Emirates rider, who also won a mountain stage in the 2015 race, took a solo victory ahead of Ilnur Zakarin of Russia on the stage from Cefalu.

Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas won a sprint to take third place and moved into second place overall.

Quick-Step rider Bob Jungels became the overall leader by six seconds.

Columbia’s Fernando Gaviria sprints to take 3rd stage of Giro

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CAGLIARI, Sardinia (AP) Fernando Gaviria won a bunch sprint at the end of the third stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday to claim his first Grand Tour victory and take the leader’s pink jersey from Andre Greipel.

Gaviria edged out Rudiger Selig after great work from his Quick-Step team inside the final 10 kilometers (6 miles) of a windy final leg in Sardinia before Monday’s rest day and the transfer to Sicily.

Giacomo Nizzolo was third at the end of the flat 148-kilometer (92-mile) route from Tortoli to Cagliari.

Tuesday’s fourth stage features the race’s first uphill finish on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna, where Sicilian Vincenzo Nibali is keen to take the pink jersey.

The Giro ends on May 28 with a 28-kilometer (17.4 mile) individual time trial.