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Cyclist admits blood doping amid investigations into network

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VIENNA — The blood doping case which started with police raids at the Nordic skiing world championships four days ago spread to cycling on Sunday.

In Austria, authorities confirmed local media reports that an Austrian professional cyclist admitted to doping after being arrested on Friday following investigations into an alleged blood doping network.

Innsbruck state prosecutors’ spokesman Hansjorg Mayr said “a Tyrolean cyclist” was suspected of sports fraud in connection with the case involving “a German doctor and his accomplices.”

“The man was arrested on Friday, he has confessed, and he was released the same day,” said Mayr, who did not identify the cyclist in accordance with Austrian privacy laws.

It was the first arrest of an athlete from outside winter sports following Wednesday’s police raids in Erfurt, Germany, and at the Nordic worlds in Seefeld, Austria.

The raids led to the immediate arrests of nine people, including Austrian cross-country skiers Max Hauke and Dominik Baldauf, four-time Olympian Alexei Poltoranin of Kazakhstan, and Estonian teammates Karel Tammjarv and Andreas Veerpalu. All five have been provisionally suspended by the International Ski Federation.

The doctor at the center of the case is Mark Schmidt, who worked for the Gerolsteiner cycling team around the time Austrian rider Bernhard Kohl was stripped of his third place and the polka-dot jersey for best climber at the 2008 Tour de France for doping.

Schmidt, who was arrested in Erfurt, where he has a medical practice, has always denied wrongdoing. The remaining three people arrested were associates.

Ewan wins Stage 8; Conti keeps pink jersey in Giro

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PESARO, Italy (AP) Caleb Ewan of Australia sprinted to victory on the eighth and longest stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday, while Italian cyclist Valerio Conti remained the overall leader.

Ewan, who rides for Lotto-Soudal, edged Elia Viviani and Pascal Ackermann in a bunch sprint at the end of the 239-kilometer (149-mile) leg from Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro.

Conti, who has worn the pink jersey since finishing second on Thursday’s sixth stage, remained one minute, 32 seconds ahead of Jose Rojas and 1:41 ahead of Giovanni Carboni.

Sunday’s ninth stage is the only time the Giro crosses into another country as it visits the republic of San Marino briefly for the uphill finish of the 35-kilometer time trial.

That could mark the start of the real fight for overall victory, as every second lost will be tough to pull back when the race heads into the mountains.

The Giro finishes in Verona on June 2.

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Pogacar wins Stage 6 of Tour of California to take lead

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ONTARIO, Calif. — UAE Team Emirates began its week at the Tour of California by sending home one of its riders upon learning that his name had surfaced in a European investigation into doping in cycling.

The team appears set to end it with the overall race lead.

Tadej Pogacar reeled in several top contenders on Friday’s final climb to Mt. Baldy, then matched every attack thrown down by Sergio Higuita. That allowed him to reach the finish line first and take not only the sixth stage but also the lead in the general classification with just a day of racing to go.

In the women’s race, American climber Katie Hall surged in the final couple kilometers up Mt. Baldy before holding off teammate Anna van der Breggen for the stage win. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio was third.

Van der Breggen retained the overall lead by 29 seconds over Hall, the defending race winner.

UAE Team Emirates has ridden this week without Kristijan Durasek, who was caught up in the Austrian doping probe. But it hardly mattered for Pogacar, who stayed out of trouble during the earlier stages and was in fourth place and 16 seconds adrift of Tejay van Garderen entering Friday’s stage.

Van Garderen’s team tried to pace him to the top, but the 2013 race winner cracked before some of his EF-Education First teammates. Gianni Mascon of Team Ineos, who had been third, also dropped off the brutal pace up the steep Mt. Baldy climb, throwing the race wide open.

George Bennett tried to join the fray in the closing kilometer, but he was unable to make up the ground on Pogacar and Higuita, making it a true duel to the finish line.

Higuita led the way heading to the final corner, but the diminutive Colombian swung low and took a better line, allowing him to pull ahead and sprint clear for the victory.

He now leads by 16 seconds ahead of Higuita with Kasper Asgreen in third.

Several riders in the women’s race tried to attack on the tough climb of Mt. Baldy, too, and Omer Shapira was the first to offer a truly dangerous move. Hall soon followed with about 2+ kilometers (1 + miles) to go, and van der Breggen soon bridged to make a trio of riders at the front.

Shapira was unable to keep up with Hall and van der Breggen, the reigning world champion. That left the two Boels-Dolmans riders to duel on the final kilometer to the summit, and Hall made the pass within sight of the finish line to snag the stage victory.

The final stage Saturday takes the men and women 126 kilometers (78 miles) from Santa Clarita to Pasadena, but both overall leaders will be expected to protect their jerseys before the finish at the Rose Bowl.