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American McCabe wins crash-marred Stage 3 at Herald Sun Tour

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MELBOURNE, Australia — American Travis McCabe won a crash-marred third stage of the Herald Sun Tour on Saturday, out-sprinting a reduced field over the final kilometers.

McCabe was one of only a handful of riders to emerge from a big pileup with only 1.5 kilometers to go, beating Australians Mitch Docker and Leigh Howard.

“It was hairy. It got really crazy those last few Ks (kilometers), but I pretty much put all my faith and trust in the guys,” McCabe said.

“It feels great. You always get that high when you win and this was no different.”

Orica-Scott’s race leader Damien Howson of Australia and three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) were held up in the smash — the second in the last 3.5 kilometers- but emerged unscathed, setting the scene for a close four-lap sprint at Kinglake in the final stage on Sunday.

Howson continues to lead with Australian Jai Hindley in second place, 38 seconds behind. Froome is in sixth place, 1 minute, 12 seconds behind Howson.

Damien Howson maintains lead after Stage 2 of Herald Sun Tour

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Damien Howson kept the Herald Sun Tour lead on Friday after overcoming a tire puncture late in the 165.6-kilometer second stage of the four-stage race.

The tire blowout with 20 kilometers to go on the stage from Mount Beauty to Beechworth put Howson on the defensive, but his Orica-Scott teammates dropped back to help him and he did not lose any time to his main rivals.

“Trying to remain calm was pretty difficult, but I had them all around me,” Howson said of his teammates. Mitch Docker gave Howson his front wheel when the Tour leader sustained the puncture.

Three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome’s British teammate Luke Rowe won the stage with a solo breakaway for his first professional stage win since 2012.

It follows teammate Danny van Poppel’s prologue time-trial win, but Froome gained no time on Howson and even went down one place on the overall standings.

Howson retained his 38-second overall lead over compatriot Jai Hindley. Froome stayed one minute and 12 seconds behind Howson, but dropped from fifth to sixth overall.

Froome also showed some racing protocol on the climb, reported by race officials to have eased off the pace and honoring cycling’s unwritten rule not to attack the leader if he had experienced a mechanical problem.

The Tour continues on Saturday with a 167.7-kilometer stage from Benalla to Mitchelton, followed by the concluding stage Sunday at Kinglake north of Melbourne.

Howson leads after Day 1 of Herald Sun Tour, Froome sixth

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian cyclist Damien Howson took the overall lead in the Herald Sun Tour after winning the grueling opening Falls Creek stage on Thursday, leaving three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome in sixth place.

Howson leads Orica-Scott teammate Esteban Chaves and Froome by more than a minute. It was the first professional win for Howson, the 2013 under-23 world time-trial champion.

The stage had been billed as a duel between Froome and Chaves, the two best climbers in the field.

But Howson and Froome’s Team Sky teammate Kenny Ellisonde broke clear of the main group midway up the 29-kilometer climb to the finish at Falls Creek that highlighted the 174-kilometer opening stage from Wangaratta.

Once they caught leader Steve Lampier of Britain, the pair continued building a lead. Howson then attacked inside the last three kilometers and won by 32 seconds.

Lampier’s Australian teammate Jai Hindley also had a strong opening day, catching and then passing Ellisonde for second place.

Ellisonde finished third at 47 seconds, while Australian Michael Storer was fourth and Chaves was fifth over the line at a minute and 10 seconds.

Froome was a second further back in sixth spot.

Howson leads Hindley overall by 38 seconds and Ellisonde is third at 53 seconds.

The Tour concludes Sunday with a hilly last stage at Kinglake north of Melbourne.

“Team Sky are one of the world’s strongest teams so I guarantee they are going to throw everything they have (at us),” Howson said. “There’s still a lot of tough stages to come, but I also have a very strong team behind me.”