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Giro d’Italia to open 2018 race in Israel

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JERUSALEM — The Giro d’Italia cycling race will open next year’s event in Israel, marking the first time any leg of the sport’s Grand Tours will take place outside of Europe.

Race organizers say details of the exact route of the three-day leg in Israel will be announced next week. Italian and Israeli ministers will make the announcement, along with Spanish great Alberto Contador.

More than 175 of the world’s best cyclists will arrive in Israel for the race, one of cycling’s top three stage races along with the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta. For the first time in its 101-year history, the Giro will begin outside Europe.

Viewed by hundreds of millions across the globe, this will be the biggest sporting event ever held in Israel.

Alejandro Valverde retakes overall lead of Tour of Catalonia

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TORTOSA, Spain — Alejandro Valverde defeated Chris Froome and Alberto Contador to win the decisive fifth stage of the Tour of Catalonia on Friday and take the overall lead going into the weekend.

Valverde won after dominating the final climb of the 182-kilometer (113-mile) stage from Valls to Tortosa. The Spaniard finished 13 seconds ahead of both Froome and Contador.

Valverde opened a 21-second lead over Froome and a 47-second gap to Contador in the overall standings.

American Tejay van Garderen, the leader going into Friday’s stage, dropped to sixth place overall, 1 minute, 18 seconds behind Valverde.

Froome, the three-time Tour de France winner, had an eventful day. He had a puncture about 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the stage, and was also forced to momentarily stop with about 45 kilometers (28 miles) to go because of a crash in front of him.

Saturday’s sixth stage will see riders travel 189 kilometers (117 miles) from Tortosa to Reus.

The week-long race in northeastern Spain ends Sunday in Barcelona.

Sergio Henao escapes Alberto Contador to claim Paris-Nice title

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NICE, France (AP) History cruelly repeated itself for Alberto Contador as the Spaniard missed out on a third Paris-Nice victory by just two seconds on Sunday.

Colombian rider Sergio Henao clung on to his dwindling overnight lead to win the biggest race of his career.

Last year, Contador lost the race by four seconds.

Contador was in third place overnight – 31 seconds behind Henao – heading into the eighth and final stage, which was the third straight day of tough climbing.

Contador came agonizingly close to adding to his wins from 2007 and 2010. He finished the stage in second place behind countryman David De La Cruz and missed out on the crucial extra seconds of time bonus that a stage win would have given him.

“It was a beautiful race and I’m glad to have played a part in that,” Contador said.

The 34-year-old Contador, a two-time Tour de France champion, felt he may have slightly misjudged when to make his move over the 116-kilometer (72-mile trek). The stage started and ended in the southern city of Nice, with a long downhill finish after the second big climb.

“I attacked from afar but it was a little too far from the finish,” Contador said. “That’s the way I am. I have to try something. I can’t be content with sitting back. I have to take risks on the flat, in the climbs and in the descents.”

The 29-year-old Henao crossed the line in the chasing pack, 21 seconds behind Contador and De La Cruz – who clocked the same time as they sprinted to the line in a dramatic finish.

“This is the greatest victory in my career and to win it like this at the last meter of Paris-Nice is simply unbelievable,” Henao said. “I knew I had to suffer until the last minutes but I had to do it for myself and for the greatness of Colombian cycling.”

Countryman Nairo Quintana leads the Tirreno-Adriatico race in Italy after five stages.