Merlier wins sprint in Stage 6; Yates leads Tirreno-Adriatico

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SENIGALLIA, Italy — Belgian champion Tim Merlier won the sixth stage of the eight-day Tirreno-Adriatico race in a mass sprint and Simon Yates held onto the overall lead on Saturday.

Strategically drafting behind the other challengers until the last 100 meters amid crosswinds, Merlier then surged in front to win by almost an entire bike length.

Pascal Ackermann crossed second and Magnus Nielsen came third.

“The team brought me perfectly to the sprint,” said Merlier, who rides for the Alpecin-Fenix team.

“We took the left side of the sprint, the one most exposed to the wind but it proved to be the right choice. The last few stages have been hard for me with so many climbs, I was just trying to finish within the time limit. I’m happy I can finally celebrate today.”

The 171-kilometer (106-mile) route from Castelfidardo to Senigallia started out hilly then turned completely flat, enabling the main pack to easily chase down an early breakaway group and set up the mass sprint alongside the Adriatic coast.

Yates remained 16 seconds ahead of Rafal Majka and 39 seconds in front of 2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas.

Stage 7 on Sunday is an undulating 181-kilometer leg from Pieve Torina to Loreto featuring an uphill finish.

“Tomorrow it could be a more challenging stage but we have a strong team to defend the blue jersey,” Yates said.

The race ends on Monday with a 10-kilometer individual time trial in San Benedetto Del Tronto.

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.

Filippo Ganna breaks cycling’s hour world record

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GRENCHEN, Switzerland — Time trial specialist Filippo Ganna broke cycling’s hour record when he covered 56.792 kilometers in 60 minutes.

The Italian extended the record by more than 1.2 kilometers, the biggest jump in seven years.

Asked to describe the pain of the last five minutes, he said, “I lost energy to try to go for 57, but nothing (in the legs).”

He said he was open to another attempt at a different time of the season, when he was fresher.

Ganna took the record from British teammate Dan Bigham, who made his mark at the same Swiss velodrome on Aug. 19.