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Masnada wins Stage 6 of Giro; Conti takes overall lead

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SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy — Fausto Masnada of Italy claimed his first victory in a Grand Tour by winning the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday while compatriot Valerio Conti seized the overall lead from Primoz Roglic, who was involved in an early crash.

The Italian duo were in a two-man breakaway for nearly 30 kilometers and Conti then allowed Masnada to grab the stage win without contesting the sprint, knowing he would take over the leader’s pink jersey.

“It’s a lot of joy. I’m really happy. I knew I was on form but winning a stage is really difficult and I did it,” said Masnada, who rides for Androni. “I want to dedicate this win to my uncle who died just before I left for the Giro. I managed to see him and I promised him I would get a stage win for him and I did.”

The two had pulled away from an original 12-man breakaway which went early on the 238-kilometer (148-mile) route from Cassino to San Giovanni Rotondo after a crash slowed down the peloton briefly.

Roglic, who had worn the maglia rosa since winning the opening time trial on Saturday, was involved in the crash but the Slovenian cyclist was not seriously injured. However, he did tear his shorts and had scratches and cuts on his right buttock.

Jose Rojas finished third, 38 seconds behind Masnada.

Roglic and the other major favorites crossed the line more than seven minutes behind Conti and are now more than five minutes behind the UAE Team Emirates cyclist in the overall standings.

Conti is 1 minute, 41 seconds ahead of compatriot Giovanni Carboni and 2:09 ahead of Nans Peters of France.

The 26-year-old Conti will be the first Italian to wear the maglia rosa since Vincenzo Nibali in 2016 – the year he went on to claim his second Giro title.

“I was targeting both stage win and maglia rosa but Fausto Masnada is an incredibly strong rider,” Conti said. “I’m very happy with what I got. For an Italian rider, it’s fantastic. This is my first time leading a stage race. I’m thrilled.”

Friday’s seventh stage is a hilly, 185-kilometer route from Vasto to L’Aquila.

The Giro finishes in Verona on June 2.

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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