Bettiol gets 1st Grand Tour stage win, Bernal keeps Giro d’Italia lead

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STRADELLA, Italy — Italian cyclist Alberto Bettiol timed his attack perfectly to win the 18th stage of the Giro d’Italia for his first victory in a Grand Tour, and Egan Bernal kept the leader’s pink jersey at the end of the race’s longest leg.

Bettiol, who rides for EF Education-Nippo, had plenty of time to sit up on his bicycle and repeatedly lift up his hands to encourage the home fans that lined the route to cheer louder as he approached the finish line.

“It means really, really a lot for me, for my team, and for the people that always believe in me,” the 27-year-old Bettiol said. “It’s a gift that I want to go to my former agent, Mauro Battaglini, that passed away last year, and was like a second father for me, so this victory is for him that for sure he looks on me from the sky.”

The 231-kilometer (144-mile) route from Rovereto to Stradella was mainly flat but ended with a series of short climbs through the rolling Pavia winelands.

Remi Cavagna appeared to be heading for the win after attacking on the approach to the fourth-category Castana climb and crossing with a 28-second advantage, but Bettiol had set off in pursuit and caught and passed the French time-trial champion with about seven kilometers remaining.

“The final was really hectic because a lot of guys looked at me, everybody were in my wheel, and I was sure that a strong guy like Remi Cavagna would try something,” Bettiol said. “Fortunately the final was really, really strong and really, really hard, and I could use my legs … and in the end I catch him, and I immediately attacked.”

Simone Consonni led the rest of the breakaway across, 17 seconds behind Bettiol. Nicolas Roche was third to complete an all-Italian podium.

Bernal crossed the line in the peloton, more than 23 minutes behind. The 2019 Tour de France champion maintained his lead of 2 minutes, 21 seconds over Damiano Caruso and 3:23 ahead of third-place Simon Yates.

“You can’t say you are overconfident because in just one bad day, you can lose everything,” Bernal said. “I have a lot of respect for the other guys and I need to be focused and just try do my best and that’s it.”

Friday’s 19th stage has been modified to bypass the top-category climb of the Mottarone after a cable car disaster there killed 14 people on Sunday. The new, slightly-shorter route nevertheless includes three categorized climbs – including a top-classed one to the finish – on the 166-kilometer (103-mile) leg from Abbiategrasso to Alpe di Mera.

The Giro finishes on Sunday 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.