Merlier sprints to 1st ever stage win, Ganna keeps Giro d’Italia lead

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NOVARA, Italy — Belgian cyclist Tim Merlier won a bunch sprint at the end of the second stage of the Giro d’Italia to claim his first ever Grand Tour stage victory, while Filippo Ganna retained the leader’s pink jersey.

Merlier, who rides for Alpecin-Fenix, launched his sprint with 200 meters remaining of the mainly flat 179-kilometer (111-mile) route from Stupinigi to Novara and managed to edge out the Italian duo of Giacomo Nizzolo and Elia Viviani.

The 28-year-old Merlier lifted his hands above his head in the shape of a “W” at the finish in tribute to Wouter Weylandt, on the 10th anniversary of the day the Belgian cyclist died while racing at the Giro in 2011.

“I paid tribute to Wouter Weylandt on the line. I knew him from the Schelde peloton,” Merlier said. “I knew he was a good sprinter. I was in a training camp in the Ardennes 10 years ago at the time, it was a very emotional day.

“Today’s sprint was very hectic … I’ve done nice sprints before but this one is my best victory so far”.

Ganna, who won the opening stage time trial, managed to slightly extend his lead in the overall standings after earning a three-second time bonus in the intermediate sprint. The Ineos Grenadiers rider is 13 seconds ahead of Italian compatriot Edoardo Affini and 16 seconds ahead of Tobias Foss of Norway.

“I did the time bonus sprint just to take it away from the others, thinking of the coming days if Egan (Bernal) or Pavel (Sivakov) are fighting for the Maglia Rosa (leader’s pink jersey),” Ganna said.

“I enjoyed hearing the crowd of Piedmont yelling my name today. We know tomorrow is a perfect stage for Peter Sagan.”

Monday’s third stage is a 190-kilometer (118-mile) route from Biella to Canale, with three categorized climbs along the way.

The Giro finishes on May 30 in Milan with an individual time trial.

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.