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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.

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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