Cortina, van der Breggen win Tour of California stages

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VENTURA, Calif. — Team Bahrain-Merida spent most of the fifth stage at the Tour of California at the front of the peloton, setting a hard pace but leaving nobody quite sure what their end-game might be.

Turns out it was Ivan Garcia Cortina.

The 23-year-old Spanish cyclist moved to the front after the final couple of solo attacks were reeled in by the rest of the field, then sprinted ahead of Maximiliano Richeze and Sergio Higuita to win a stage Thursday that was racked by brutal crosswinds of up to 45 mph near the finish.

Tejay van Garderen finished safely in the main field to retain the overall race lead.

“It was really windy for us,” he said. “We survived OK. The team kept me safe, kept the breakaway in check and we were able to survive another day.”

In the women’s race, which began with an out-and-back ride to Ventura, reigning Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen got loose in the final couple miles to win the opening stage.

After a chaotic and controversial fourth stage, when crashes near the finish put the overall lead in the hands of the race jury, the fifth stage of the men’s race was relatively straightforward.

The opening breakaway covered most of the lumpy, 136-mile run from Pismo Beach before it was brought back in the closing miles. Tim Declercq gave it a solo shot with about 6 miles to go, building a substantial lead, but he was swept up on the final climb before the finish.

Former overall winner George Bennett also attacked on the windy run-in, but the group came together for the final mile and it was Cortina who got to the front to win the bunch sprint.

“The team had full confidence in me,” said Cortina, who got his first WorldTour win after several close calls last season. “I was thinking about, if I can give 200 percent I can win.”

Richeze followed across for Deceuninck-Quick Step, which had won each of the previous three stages with different riders. Higuita rounded out the podium for EF Education First, which did a masterful job of controlling the race and keeping van Garderen in the yellow jersey.

“It was just a really fast day,” said van Garderen, whose lead dropped to four seconds over Kasper Asgreen and six over Gianni Moscon heading into the tour’s penultimate day.

Van der Breggen will have the yellow jersey for Stage 2 of the women’s race after the world champ, fresh off her victory at La Fleche Wallonne, showed veteran patience all afternoon.

Olga Zabelinskaya tried to attack late in the race, and Lizzie Deignan soon joined her in the pursuit. But the duo was caught as the field approached the same finish as the men, and van der Breggen surged ahead to seize control of the race she won two years ago.

“The team performed well,” said Danny Stam, the manager of van der Breggen’s powerful Boels-Dolmans team. “Katie (Hall) attacked after 53 kilometers (33 miles), causing the break. After that we brought back the leader just in time for Anna to place her final attack. She brought home the victory.”

Elisa Balsamo took second place and Arlenis Sierra rounded out the podium.

Now comes the crucial stage for both the men and women.

The sixth stage for the men Friday takes riders just 79 miles, but it includes the torturous climb up Mt. Baldy, where the overall race is likely to be decided. Some sections of the climb reach a grade of 16%, eclipsing even some of the steepest European climbs.

The women also will trek through the San Gabriel Mountains before ending up at Mt. Baldy, where defending race winner Katie Hall will stretch her climbing legs in an attempt to win again.

“The feeling in our team, the mood is really good,” van Garderen said. “We have three riders in the race still with the potential to win on Baldy, we’re super confident that we have the strongest team here and I think in our mind we’re still playing for the victory.”

Davide Rebellin dies after hit by truck while training

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MILAN — Italian cyclist Davide Rebellin, one of the sport’s longest-serving professionals, died after being struck by a truck while training. He was 51.

Rebellin was riding near the town of Montebello Vicentino in northern Italy when he was hit by a truck near a motorway junction. The vehicle did not stop, although Italian media reported that the driver may have been unaware of the collision.

Local police are working to reconstruct the incident and find the driver.

Rebellin had only retired from professional cycling last month, bringing to an end a career that had spanned 30 years. He last competed for Work Service-Vitalcare-Dynatek and the UCI Continental team posted a tribute on its social media accounts.

“Dear Davide, keep pedaling, with the same smile, the same enthusiasm and the same passion as always,” the Italian team said. “This is not how we imagined the future together and it is not fair to have to surrender so suddenly to your tragic absence.”

“To your family, your loved ones, your friends and all the enthusiasts who, like us, are crying for you right now, we just want to say that we imagine you on a bicycle, looking for new roads, new climbs and new challenges even up there, in the sky.”

Rebellin’s successes included victories at Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico as well as winning a stage in the 1996 edition of the Giro d’Italia, which he also led for six stages.

Rebellin won silver in the road race at the 2008 Olympic Games, but he was later stripped of his medal and banned for two years after a positive doping test. He had denied wrongdoing.

CAS upholds Nairo Quintana DQ from Tour de France for opioid use

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The disqualification of two-time Tour de France runner-up Nairo Quintana from his sixth place in the 2022 race for misuse of an opioid was confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

CAS said its judges dismissed Quintana’s appeal and agreed with the International Cycling Union that the case was a medical matter rather than a doping rules violation. He will not be banned.

The court said the judges ruled “the UCI’s in-competition ban on tramadol was for medical rather than doping reasons and was therefore within the UCI’s power and jurisdiction.”

Traces of the synthetic painkiller tramadol were found in two dried blood spot samples taken from the Colombian racer five days apart in July, the UCI previously said.

Quintana’s case is among the first to rely on the dried blood spot (DBS) method of collecting samples which the World Anti-Doping Agency approved last year.

Tramadol was banned in 2019 from use at cycling races because of potential side effects. They include the risk of addiction, dizziness, drowsiness and loss of attention.

Quintana finished second in the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015, won both times by Chris Froome. He won the 2014 Giro d’Italia.