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Another Austrian cyclist admits blood doping as case widens

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VIENNA — Austrian cyclist Georg Preidler has admitted to blood doping linked to a case in which five skiers were arrested, his professional team Groupama-FDJ said Monday.

Preidler offered “his immediate and spontaneous resignation, justified by his inexcusable involvement” in the doping case, Groupama-FDJ said. He had allegedly undergone “blood collection” procedures twice last year.

The team said it had informed the International Cycling Union, French law enforcement and the French anti-doping agency.

“The UCI does not have any first-hand information concerning confessions made by cyclists,” the Switzerland-based governing body said in a statement.

However, the cycling body said it asked its independent investigators to exchange information with Austrian authorities and the World Anti-Doping Agency to advance each other’s cases.

Authorities in Austria previously said Sunday that another rider had admitted to doping and was suspected of sports fraud in connection with the case. That rider wasn’t named under Austrian privacy laws.

Preidler has raced in eight Grand Tours, including twice at the Tour de France, and took part in the Giro d’Italia and Spanish Vuelta last season. He was 16th for Austria in the time trial at the 2016 Olympics.

Austrian and German police arrested nine people last week, including five cross-country skiers at the world championships and a German doctor. Austrian authorities said they had disrupted an “international doping ring” with involvement in multiple sports. One skier was arrested part-way through a blood transfusion.

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 denied wrongdoing.

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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