Mark Cavendish returning to Tour de France after 3-year absence

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BRUSSELS — Veteran sprinter Mark Cavendish will make a return to the Tour de France after a three-year absence from cycling’s biggest event.

Cavendish was not expected to be among the eight riders selected by Deceuninck-Quick-Step but was a last-minute inclusion following Sam Bennett’s withdrawal.

The three-week race starts on Saturday in Brittany from the port city of Brest.

The 36-year-old Cavendish has won 30 Tour de France stages, putting him second on the all-time list behind Belgian great Eddy Merckx. However, he last won a stage in 2016.

He also won the best sprinter’s green jersey in 2011, a coveted prize that Bennett claimed last year.

“Obviously, the circumstances with Sam could be better – he had a special Tour last year and I am sad for him not being able to defend his green jersey,” Cavendish said. “But at the same time, I am excited to be going back to a race that I have such an affinity with and where I have so much history.

“I am going to do all I can to grab this opportunity with both hands.”

Cavendish has struggled in recent years, even taking a break from cycling after being diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus for the second time in 2018. He has enjoyed a resurgence this season, posting five wins after returning to Deceuninck-Quick-Step for 2021.

Bennett was forced to withdraw because of a right knee injury.

“I had a very minor incident during training a couple of weeks ago, which affected my knee,” Bennett said. “While the injury I sustained is very short term, it impacted my training for the biggest bike race in the world all too much and left me without enough time to be race fit.”

World champion Julian Alaphilippe, who wore the yellow jersey for 14 days two years ago, will lead the squad. Tour of Flanders winner Kasper Asgreen was also included alongside Davide Ballerini, Mattia Cattaneo, Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns and Michael Morkov.

“Mark returns to the Tour, and it’s great to have someone with his history and experience on the team. He will have a superb lead out with Ballerini and Morkov,” Deceuninck-Quick-Step sports director Tom Steels said.

Giro d’Italia to start on former railway line in Abruzzo

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L’AQUILA, Italy — The 2023 edition of the Giro d’Italia will start with an individual time trial on a coastal cycle path that has been recreated from a former railway line in the region of Abruzzo.

At a ceremony in the Abruzzo capital of L’Aquila, race organizers announced that the Grand Tour will run from May 6-28 and begin with an 18.4-kilometer (11.4-mile) time trial on the Adriatic coast.

Almost the entire time trial will be on the spectacular Costa dei Trabocchi cycle path that hugs the coast line before a short climb to the finish in Ortona.

“I am excited at the idea of the Grande Partenza (Big Start) of the Giro in Abruzzo . It is a dream come true, especially with regard to the prologue on the Costa dei Trabocchi,” said Trek-Segafredo cyclist Dario Cataldo, who is from the region.

“I well remember that when the cycle path project was born and I saw the first tracks, I imagined the beauty of a Giro d’Italia passing along the route. It looked perfect.”

Stage 2 is a 204-kilometer (127-mile) leg from Teramo to San Salvo that is hilly in the first part but expected to end in a bunch sprint.

Stage 3 will also start in the Abruzzo region, in Vasto, but it will then head south and will be detailed when the full route is revealed on Oct. 17 in Milan.

The Giro will also return to the region for Stage 7, a daunting climb on the Gran Sasso d’Italia to Campo Imperatore. The high mountain stage, on May 12, will be the edition’s first finish above 2,000 meters.

Australian Jai Hindley won this year’s Giro.

Norway takes gold-medal lead at world road cycling titles

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WOLLONGONG, Australia – Soren Waerenskjold repeated Norway’s gold medal success at the world road cycling championships a day after Tobias Foss finished first in the elite men’s time trial.

Waerenskjold won the men’s under-23 time trial on the second day of the championships with a dominant performance. He clocked 34 minutes, 13.40 seconds over the 28.8-kilometer course to beat Belgian Alec Segaert by 16.34 seconds.

British rider Leo Hayter, the younger brother of elite rider Ethan Hayter, was 24.16 seconds off the pace for the bronze medal.

Foss beat a strong field to win the elite time trial, the biggest win of his career.

Norway has two gold medals, while Dutch ace Ellen van Dijk beat Australian Grace Brown to take out the women’ elite time trial.

The mixed relay time trial is set for Wednesday. The championships conclude on the weekend with the women’s road race on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.