Hirt claims 1st grand tour stage, Carapaz keeps Giro d’Italia lead

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APRICA, Italy — Czech cyclist Jan Hirt won the tough Stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia for his first grand tour victory and Richard Carapaz kept the pink jersey as the race headed into a final week in the high mountains.

Hirt clutched his head almost in disbelief before raising his hands into the air as he crossed the line at the end of the 202-kilometer (126-mile) route from Salo to Aprica, which included one of the sport’s toughest climbs up the Mortirolo.

“Every time someone asks me why I do cycling, what I want to achieve, I thought I want to win one stage on the Giro and then I can stop my career,” Hirt said with a laugh. “So now I’m happy, but I don’t want to stop.”

The leg also included two other top-classified ascents as more than 5,000 meters (16,000 feet) of climbing was packed into an epic stage. It was also the race’s annual wine stage and was dedicated to the Sforzato variety of the Valtellina area.

Hirt attacked near the top of the Santa Cristina climb, with double-digit gradients, and although he almost lost control on a descent made treacherous by earlier rain, the 31-year-old managed to stay on his bicycle and finished seven seconds ahead of Thymen Arensman.

“I wanted to try to do something nice today,” Hirt said. “I had quite difficult moments …. then in the end on the last climb I had also a problem with my bike, it was not shifting properly and the chain was jumping and also I had cramps on the downhill, so I was really suffering and I had all these problems, but I wanted to win so much so I fight until the end.”

There was a fight for third place and the final bonus seconds between the overall favorites, with Jai Hindley edging out Carapaz and Mikel Landa. The quartet – which also included Alejandro Valverde — crossed 1 minute, 24 seconds behind Hirt.

Hindley, who was runner-up in 2020, reduced the gap to Carapaz to three seconds. Joao Almeida remained third overall but lost 14 seconds and is now 0:44 behind the Ecuadorian cyclist.

“It was a tough stage and in the end I have to say I am happy,” Carapaz said. “I thought I was going to win the sprint for third place. I eventually didn’t but it’s still a good day for me.

“I’ve lost a few seconds on Hindley but I gained more on Almeida so the balance is positive.”

Landa was fourth, while two-time Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali moved into fifth after an attack from the peloton on the descent of the Passo Mortirolo. Although he was caught by his rivals, the form he showed hinted that there is more to come for the Italian cyclist in his last Giro.

Stage 17 has almost 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) of climbing along the 168-kilometer route from Ponte di Legno to Lavarone.

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.