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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.

Giro d’Italia to start in Hungary next year

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — The Giro d’Italia will start in Hungary next year.

The prelude stage will take place in Budapest, followed by two further stages on Hungarian soil.

Giro d’Italia organizers made the announcement on Tuesday at the Italian Cultural Institute in Budapest.

It will be the Grand Tour’s 14th start outside of Italy, with the most recent being in Israel last year.

This year’s Giro d’Italia will begin in Bologna on May 11 and conclude in Verona on June 2.

Gilbert beats Politt to win Paris-Roubaix

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ROUBAIX, France — Veteran cyclist Philippe Gilbert beat German rider Nils Politt right at the end of Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix race to win it for the first time.

Gilbert strategically placed himself behind the 24-year-old Politt, and then attacked him down the left to win by about a length after nearly six hours of riding. Belgian rider Yves Lampaert finished in third.

The race is one of cycling’s five high-profile classics, along with the Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia. The 36-year-old Gilbert, a former world road race champion, has won all except Milan-San Remo.

“I still have this dream to win all them. Little by little I’m getting there,” an elated Gilbert said afterward. “Politt’s very courageous. In the end the best rider won, and thankfully it was me.”

Last year’s Paris-Roubaix winner Peter Sagan joined Gilbert and Politt near the front with about 20 kilometers left. But Sagan dropped off, leaving Gilbert and Politt to contest victory as they reached the Roubaix velodrome in northern France.

Paris-Roubaix is known as the Queen of the Classics because it is the most prestigious of the five, which are otherwise known as “monuments” of cycling.

But the grueling and dangerous 257-kilometer trek is also known as the “Hell of the North,” because of its treacherous profile including more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) of cobblestones spread out over 29 sectors.

“A lot of people said cobblestones aren’t for me. But I’ve won Tour of Flanders and now I’ve won here,” Gilbert said. “I rode a good race tactically.”

Belgian cyclist Tiesj Benoot crashed into the back of a Jumbo-Visma team car near the end of Sunday’s race, smashing the back window completely. He was taken to hospital but his injuries were not immediately known.

Last year’s Paris-Roubaix was overshadowed by the death of Belgian rider Michael Goolaerts, following a crash.