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Izaguirre wins stage, Jungels keeps Giro lead despite crash

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PESCHICI, Italy — Spanish rider Gorka Izaguirre profited from a crash on the short but steep concluding climb to win the eighth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday while Bob Jungels held on to the pink jersey despite a minor crash.

Izaguirre had time to raise his arms and celebrate his first individual Grand Tour win while Giovanni Visconti crossed second, five seconds behind, and Luis Leon Sanchez finished third, five seconds further back.

Valerio Conti was leading the four-man breakaway at the start of the concluding 1.5-kilometer climb but he lost control and crashed to the pavement while negotiating a tight turn. That’s when Izaguirre made his decisive attack.

“Visconti was probably the most dangerous rival for the stage victory in the front group,” Izaguirre said. “I got an opportunity and I’m glad I didn’t miss it.”

Izaguirre also won a team time trial with Movistar in the 2014 Spanish Vuelta.

Jungels and the other overall favorites finished 12 seconds behind Izaguirre.

Jungels, of Luxembourg with the Quick Step team, maintained his six-second advantage over Geraint Thomas of Wales. Fellow Briton Adam Yates remained third, 10 seconds back, with most of the overall favorites.

The 189-kilometer (117-mile) stage began in Molfetta and hugged the coast of the Puglia region and the Gargano peninsula before finishing in the picturesque town of Peschici amid its white stone homes.

Jungels, who claimed the pink jersey after the fourth stage, crashed on a downhill section with 35 kilometers to go and bloodied his left knee.

“It’s not a problem,” Jungels said. “I just didn’t pay attention and I hit the back wheel of my teammate on a low-speed corner.”

Jungels and the other leaders also had to chase down an attack by Sky’s Mikel Landa.

“We knew it would be a hard start but nobody expected such a competitive stage,” said Jungels, who at age 24 also leads the under-25 classification.

Stage 9 on Sunday concludes with a serious climb to Blockhaus.

The 100th Giro ends in Milan on May 28.

Bernal lifts injury-hit Team INEOS with Tour de Suisse title

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ULRICHEN, Switzerland (AP) In a rough month for Team INEOS, Egan Bernal lifted the British squad with overall victory Sunday in the nine-day Tour de Suisse.

Bernal came to Switzerland to support team leader Geraint Thomas, the 2018 Tour de France champion, who crashed out in a nasty fall on Tuesday.

Thomas’ accident followed teammate and four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome suffering season-ending injuries in a training crash in France.

Bernal is still slated to start the Tour de France on July 6 as Thomas’ top aide, though this confirmed race-winning potential after his Paris-Nice title in March.

The 22-year-old Colombian finished 19 seconds ahead of Rohan Dennis overall after they finished Sunday’s stage together, 1 minute, 2 seconds behind Hugh Carthy’s solo breakaway on snow-lined roads.

Bernal was 3:04 clear overall of third-place Patrick Konrad.

Tour director says race won’t be same without Froome

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PARIS — The Tour de France just won’t be the same without four-time champion Chris Froome in the field, race director Christian Prudhomme told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Froome was injured last week in a crash in France that left him with multiple fractures. He let go of his handlebars to blow his nose and hit a wall at speed.

“Clearly, it changes things,” Prudhomme said. “The Tour de France with Chris Froome and without is not the same thing. He has been the central character since, we’ll say, 2013.

“So other scenarios are going to open up.”

Defending champion Geraint Thomas was also hurt in a crash this week at the Tour de Suisse. The 33-year-old Welshman required stitches above his eye but he is still expecting to defend his title.

“Luckily I’m all ok,” Thomas wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “It just means I’ll need some big training rides next week now.”

The setback cast further uncertainty over Team INEOS, formerly known as Team Sky, which has won six of the last seven Tours. Bradley Wiggins won in 2012, while Froome took the title 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and Thomas last year.

But with Froome out and Thomas recovering, that could open the door for 22-year-old teammate Egan Bernal.

“Of course, Dave Brailsford’s team will weigh on the Tour de France, as in previous years. But will it do so to such an extent and in the same way?” Prudhomme asked. “I imagine that he, Dave Brailsford, is asking himself lots of questions, too.

“Who will be the leader? The evidence, logic, dictates it will be Geraint Thomas, of course,” Prudhomme said. “But will that still be the case after his crash? There are lots of question marks. But we know that Egan Bernal is ready, it seems to me.”

After an impressive win at the Paris-Nice race in March, the Colombian then also crashed in training in May. He broke his collarbone, ruling him out of the Giro d’Italia. But he is racing at the Tour de Suisse and Prudhomme expects that the mountainous terrain of the Tour will play to Bernal’s climbing strengths. This year’s Tour will be the first with three stages that finish on summits above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), where the thin air will sap riders.

“We’re going very high this year,” Prudhomme said. “But nearly all of us believe that the Colombians won’t be less strong at 2,000 meters and Bernal, obviously, is Colombian.

“At first glance, on paper, it cannot be unfavorable for Bernal,” he added. “He is super-talented in the mountains. He can attack from far out.”

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