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Bennett wins 7th stage as Yates maintains Giro d’Italia lead

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PRAIA A MARE, Italy – Sam Bennett timed his sprint to perfection to win the seventh stage of the Giro d’Italia, while British rider Simon Yates remained in the overall lead as the race went over to the Italian mainland on Friday.

Bennett was the last to launch his sprint but the Irish rider managed to edge out Elia Viviani – who won two of the opening three stages – and claim his first win in a Grand Tour.

Niccolo Bonifazio was third in the bunch sprint at the end of the flat 159-kilometer (99-mile) route along the Calabrian coast from Pizzo to Praia a Mare.

“I’m really happy with that,” said Bennett, who finished third in each of Viviani’s wins. “I tried so hard the other days to get the win but never seemed to get the timing right.

“It was very hard to get Viviani’s wheel, everyone wanted that wheel, and we had to fight for it. At one point I thought we’d left it too late but the timing was right and I could use my power to get an advantage.”

There was an early break of three cyclists and the peloton allowed Davide Ballerini, Markel Irizar and Maxim Belkov an advantage of more than four minutes before it began to reel them in.

They were caught with 14 kilometers remaining as the peloton powered to the sprint finish and victory for Bennett and his Bora-Hansgrohe team.

The general classification was unchanged and Yates, who won the young rider classification at last year’s Tour de France, retained his 16-second advantage over defending champion Tom Dumoulin.

Yates’ Mitchelton-Scott teammate, Esteban Chaves, remained third overall, 26 seconds behind.

Four-time Tour de France winner Froome was in eighth place, 1 minute, 10 seconds behind.

“It was a good first day in the maglia rosa, relaxed at the start,” Yates said. “For us as a team it was perfect. A bit stressful at the final as always but OK.

“Tomorrow, if I have the legs, I might try something. I still need to get some time on Tom Dumoulin and some other guys who are better time trialists than me.”

Saturday’s eighth stage sees the second mountain finish at the end of a 209-kilometer (130-mile) route from Praia a Mare to Montevergine.

The Giro ends in Rome on May 27.

Massachusetts man wins Mount Washington bike race

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PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. — A 30-year-old Massachusetts man won Saturday’s bicycle race up Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States.

Barry Miller, of Beverly, Massachusetts, was the top finisher in the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb up the 7.6-mile ascent to the summit of the 6,288-foot peak in 53 minutes and 34 seconds.

Miller was followed by Drake Deuel, 20, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Erik Levinsohn, 28 of New Haven, Connecticut.

In the women’s race, 40-year-old Aimee Vassee, of Longmont, Colorado, finished the course in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 5 seconds. She was followed Stefanie Sydlik, of Pittsburg, and Kristen Roberts of Reading Massachusetts.

The start of Saturday’s race was delayed two hours due to rain, fog and heavy clouds.

Last year’s top male finisher wasn’t in the race this year, nor were any of last year’s other top seven finishers.

Vasse defended her title as reigning champion in the climb. She won the race from 2004 to 2006. After a long absence, she returned last year and won in her fastest time yet.

Riders deal with a steep grade averaging 12 percent and rising to 22 percent at the finish, as well as Mount Washington’s unpredictable weather.

The race raises money for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, New Hampshire, which provides environmental and recreational education for children, schools, and families.

Australian cycling star Simon Gerrans to retire

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SYDNEY — Simon Gerrans, who won two stages of the Tour de France and is the only Australian to have won two of cycling’s one-day classics, has announced he will retire at the end of the 2018 season.

Gerrans is one of only seven Australians to have worn the leader’s yellow jersey in the Tour de France. He also won stages of the Giro d’Italia and the Spanish Vuelta and won the Milan-San Remo and Liege-Bastogne-Liege races which are among cycling’s five one-day classics, which are collectively known as the Monuments.

In an open letter published Tuesday on the website of his BMW Racing Team, Gerrans said he was ready to change careers.

“Although I feel that I am still performing at a good level physically, my passion for the sport is not what it used to be,” he said. “Professional cycling is too hard unless you are able to commit wholeheartedly.”

Gerrans, who turned professional in 2005, rode the Tour de France for the BMC team this year. He finishes with 33 career victories, winning his home tour – the Tour Down Under – four times.

“When I look back over my racing career my fondest memories don’t come from winning Classics or Grand Tour stages but the happiness and joy my victories created for the team and people close to me,” Gerrans said.