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Sagan takes third win at Tour, Thomas keeps lead on Stage 13

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VALENCE, France (AP) After most of the other top sprinters at the Tour de France succumbed in the Alps, Peter Sagan was in prime position to dominate Friday’s flat finish.

Cycling’s world champion did not disappoint, timing his move to reach maximum speed as he swung past two challengers to claim Stage 13 by a wheel length and take his third win of this race.

Seconds after Sagan reasserted his status as the most feared finisher left on the Tour, overall leader Geraint Thomas safely crossed in the pack along with teammate – and nearest challenger – Chris Froome.

Behind about 20 riders with a kilometer to go, Sagan charged to overtake runner-up Alexander Kristoff and Arnaud Demare, who finished third, at the finish line.

Sagan’s 11th career win at the world’s biggest bike race came after he was the fastest to the line in bunch sprints on Stages 2 and 5.

This time, Sagan was racing against a field of sprinters greatly depleted by three grueling days in the mountains.

Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen, who both won two stages on this Tour, along with Andre Greipel all abandoned the race on Thursday, while 30-stage winner Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel failed to make the time cut on Wednesday.

Sagan said their absence made sprinting “messy.”

“It’s changed,” he said. “Everybody wants to do a sprint now. It’s pretty messy.”

Facing no attacks on the flat stage, Thomas had no trouble maintaining his advantage of 1 minute, 39 seconds over defending champion Froome.

Tom Dumoulin stayed third overall at 1:50 behind. Primoz Roglic was fourth at 2:46, and Romain Bardet was fifth at 3:07 back.

After overzealous fans marred Thomas’ win on Thursday atop the Alpe d’Huez, the otherwise complete calm of Friday’s leg was briefly disturbed by a man on the roadside who tossed a smoke bomb into the center of the peloton as it passed by with 16 kilometers left.

Thomas said he didn’t see the smoke bomb which, besides spitting out yellow fumes, appeared to do no harm.

As for the jeers directed toward him and Froome by fans skeptical of Froome’s clearance from doping allegations days before the start of the Tour, he said it was part of being in the spotlight.

“I would rather be on the podium and be booed than be on the bus and have everyone cheering me,” Thomas said.

Thomas did ask for fans to not interfere in the race after Froome was slapped on the back going up Alpe d’Huez and contender Vincenzo Nibali was forced to quit after he broke a vertebra when knocked to the ground by a police motorbike tasked with keeping back the crowd.

The 169.5-kilometer (105-mile) leg starting from Bourg d’Oisans at the foot of the Alpe d’Huez delayed the resolution to the burning question of this race: Is Thomas really Sky’s top option while Froome seeks a fifth Tour title?

Thomas has said that although he would work to support Froome, he is not going to intentionally lose time.

But with Thomas so far proving to be the stronger rider even in the mountains where Froome normally makes his mark, their team appears ready to let the road decide.

“We’ve got two cards to play and it’s good for our strategy,” Sky sports director Nicolas Portal said before Friday’s stage.

“Who knows how long (Geraint) can hold this top level? Same for Froomey. The most important thing is the group is strong and we have the best position.”

Saturday’s Stage 14 is a hilly 188-kilometer trek from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Mende as the race makes its way to the Pyrenees Mountains.

And Froome seems eager for the action to return.

“Tomorrow we can see some good battles between the favorites,” Froome said.

Associated Press writers Andrew Dampf and Ciaran Fahey contributed

More Tour de France coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/TourdeFrance

Britain’s richest man becomes new sponsor of Team Sky

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LONDON — Britain’s richest man has bought the Team Sky cycling team, which will be renamed Team Ineos.

Jim Ratcliffe, who is the chairman of chemicals giant Ineos, is reported by the Sunday Times rich list as being worth 21 billion dollars (18.5 million euros).

Ineos pledged in a statement on Tuesday to honor all “existing commitments to riders, staff and partners.”

The team’s launch takes place at the Tour de Yorkshire which starts in Doncaster on May 2.

Sky’s long-time team principal Dave Brailsford welcomed the move, saying “it ends the uncertainty around the team” and “represents a huge vote of confidence in our future.”

Sky has won six of the past seven Tour de France races, with Chris Froome winning four times and Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas winning it once.

British broadcaster Sky announced its withdrawal from the sport last December following the European pay TV giant’s takeover by American company Comcast.

Roglic wins Tirreno-Adriatico by one second ahead of Yates

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SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy — Primoz Roglic of Slovenia won the Tirreno-Adriatico cycling race by one second when he beat British rider Adam Yates in the final-stage time trial on Tuesday.

Victor Campenaerts won the 10-kilometer (six-mile) individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.

Roglic, who rides for Team Jumbo-Visma, started the time trial in second place in the overall standings, 25 seconds behind Yates.

“It was unbelievably close. I was lucky in the end,” Roglic said. “I felt strong … I tried to make a difference and really go for it and I really pushed until the finish line.

“I was confident but I can only control myself.”

Yates had been in the lead of the race since the second of the seven stages, while his Mitchelton-Scott team had won the opening-day team time trial.

“It was close, but it wasn’t enough, that’s how it goes, that’s bike racing,” Yates said. “I did the best I could, I said yesterday that 25 seconds isn’t really enough. But I did a good TT, I’ll have to look back but I think the power was good and I held my position for as long as I could.

“There wasn’t much more I could do, the strongest man won, but for sure next year I’ll be back and hopefully I can come back stronger.”

Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark finished third overall, 30 seconds behind Roglic and nearly a minute ahead of Tom Dumoulin.

Campenaerts won the final stage in 11-plus minutes. Alberto Bettiol was three seconds behind the Belgian. Jos van Emden of the Netherlands was four seconds back.