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Froome coy about Giro defense as 2019 route revealed

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MILAN — Chris Froome could have another attempt at winning both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France as the British rider has not ruled out the possibility of defending the title he secured in Rome this year.

Next year’s Giro features three individual time trials and seven summit finishes in a balanced but testing route which ramps up into what Froome termed a “brutal, brutal second half to the race.”

Froome was present at a televised ceremony in Milan on Wednesday as organizers unveiled the route of the 2019 Giro d’Italia.

The 102nd edition of the race runs from May 11-June 2 and consists of 21 days of racing, totaling 3,518.5 kilometers (2,186.4 miles) between the start in Bologna and the finish in Verona.

There is also 46,500 meters of vertical elevation, in what organizers have called “one of the hardest courses in recent years.”

Here are some aspects of the 2019 race:

WILL HE, WONT’T HE

Froome remained coy on his chances of competing in next year’s Giro, saying he will decide with Team Sky in December.

This year’s victory came in only his third time competing in the race, and his first since 2010.

“I’ve got to say it really is tempting looking at it,” Froome said. “It’s an epic race and having won it this year it would certainly be difficult to watch it on TV and not be there next year.

“I would like to return to Italy but that’s not my decision.”

Froome attempted the Giro-Tour double this year, but his incredible come-from-behind victory in Italy cost him dearly as he finished third in France, behind teammate Geraint Thomas and Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin.

He had won the three previous editions of the Tour.

“As I saw this year it’s very difficult to do both, it’s not impossible but it’s very difficult … I wasn’t that far this year,” Froome said.

Froome has won two Grand Tours in a year, having won both the Tour and the Spanish Vuelta last year. When he went on to secure the Giro title, he became only the third cyclist to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time.

“I’ve never won Giro and Tour, that remains my objective,” the 33-year-old Froome said.

ITALIAN STYLE

After this year’s big start in Israel, the 2019 Giro will stay almost entirely in Italy.

The race will cross into another country just once – and briefly at that – as it visits the republic of San Marino for the uphill finish of the ninth stage time trial.

Next year’s Giro starts in Bologna with an 8.2-kilometer individual time trial, which is mainly flat before ending in a steep climb up to the Sanctuary of San Luca.

“It goes up a wall of a climb to kick the race off in quite a spectacular way,” Froome said.

SECOND-HALF FIREWORKS

Five of the six low difficulty stages fall in the first half of the race, with three in the first week.

There is just one suitable stage for the sprinters in the final week and three high difficulty stages.

“It’s got a brutal, brutal second half to the race,” Froome said. “Starts off lulling people into a little bit of a false sense of security in how easy it is in the first week.

“Into the second half of the race it’s just brutal, massive mountains, very high altitudes as well for that time of year so I can see some pretty bitterly cold stages as well … Giro d’Italia is one of those races that really is decided in that final week.”

The final week starts with a bang as stage 16 is a long, testing Alpine leg of 226 kilometers with 5,700 meters of climbing.

The riders will face the Presolana Pass, the Croce di Salven Pass, the Gavia Pass – the highest point of this edition – and the Mortirolo Pass from the hardest side of Mazzo di Valtellina.

“This stage is enormous, it’s the stage where you will see the difference between men and boys,” Froome said.

The toughest stage of this year’s race could come toward the end of the second week. The 14th stage is a short but intense leg, with 4,000 meters of climbing packed into 131 kilometers from Saint Vincent to Courmayeur.

There are four steep climbs in quick succession before the final ascent up to the foot of the Monte Bianco Skyway.

That comes before the race’s longest leg: 237 kilometers from Ivrea to Como.

TRIBUTES

A number of important social and cultural references will be made over the course.

Stage seven finishes in L’Aquila, where the Giro will commemorate ten years since the earthquake that devastated the city and its surroundings in 2009.

The Giro will also remember people that have impacted Italy’s history.

The third stage will start from the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, 500 years after his death. Stage eight finishes finish in Pesaro, the birthplace of the composer Gioacchino Rossini.

Ban for 2011 Vuelta winner Cobo could give title to Froome

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AIGLE, Switzerland — Juan Jose Cobo has been banned from cycling for three years after being found guilty of doping in 2011, the year he won the Spanish Vuelta.

Cobo’s ban puts 2011 Vuelta runner-up Chris Froome in line for a seventh Grand Tour title.

The International Cycling Union says Cobo has been found “guilty of an anti-doping rule violation.” The UCI says the case was “based on abnormalities from 2009 and 2011 detected in his biological passport.”

The now-retired 38-year-old Spanish rider won the three-week Vuelta for his first Grand Tour title in September 2011, finishing 13 seconds ahead of Froome. Bradley Wiggins was third.

The UCI says Cobo has a one-month deadline to file an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Carapaz on verge of Giro victory; Bilbao wins Stage 20

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CROCE D’AUNE-MONTE AVENA, Italy (AP) Ecuadorian cyclist Richard Carapaz took a huge step towards winning the Giro d’Italia as he preserved his overall lead at the end of the penultimate stage, which was won by Pello Bilbao of Spain on Saturday.

Carapaz, who rides for Movistar, remained 1 minute, 54 seconds ahead of Vincenzo Nibali ahead of the final time trial in Verona on Sunday.

“We’ve tried to win the stage with Mikel Landa as well as myself to retain the Maglia Rosa but we’ve missed out by very little,” Carapaz said. “However, we’re happy with how it went. I believe 1:54 over Nibali is enough although anything can happen in a final time trial.”

Landa leapfrogged Primoz Roglic into third, 2:53 behind Carapaz, after finishing second in a sprint with Bilbao after 194 kilometers (121 miles) from Feltre to Croce d’Aune-Monte Avena, which had five long, categorized climbs in the Dolomites.

It was Bilbao’s second Grand Tour victory after the Astana rider triumphed on Stage 7.

“I knew that Carapaz would try to give the win to Mikel Landa so I followed the best wheel,” Bilbao said. “My first win was special. This second win is even better because it’s a big mountain stage. When the GC riders caught us I thought it would be hard but they were tired, too.”

Giulio Ciccone was third, two seconds behind the front two.

Miguel Angel Lopez had hopes of competing for a stage win but he was tripped by a fan, who was running alongside encouraging him but collided with another spectator and fell onto the cyclist. As Lopez got back up, he slapped the fan. Lopez was still visibly furious when he crossed the line 18th, 1:49 off the pace.

“I’m sorry for what happened, I was full of pure adrenaline. But there needs to be more respect for the cyclists,” Lopez said.

Another incident with a fan also cost Roglic. The Slovenian was pushed by a spectator and didn’t attempt to push him away and so was penalized 10 seconds by the race jury. Roglic, who finished 50 seconds behind Carapaz, now trails by 3:16 overall. However, he is a time trial specialist and will hope to at least finish the three-week race on the podium.

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