Ruta del Sol: Chris Froome stays seventh after third stage, Wout Poels leads

Chris Froome

Chris Froome received a gift from the Mayor of Mancha Real, Maria del Mar Davila, before stage three

Britain’s Chris Froome remained seventh after stage three of the Ruta del Sol, as Team Sky team-mate Wout Poels retained the leader’s jersey.

Four-time Tour de France champion Froome, 32, finished safely in the pack on the 165km third stage from Mancha Real to Herrera.

The final kilometres were left to the sprinters, with Italian Sacha Modolo beating Spain’s Carlos Barbero by a bike’s length to snatch victory.

Colombia’s Nelson Soto was third.

Dutchman Poels leads by two seconds from Astana’s Luis Leon Sanchez and Lotto Soudal’s Tim Wellens.

Former Sky rider Mikel Landa, now at Movistar, is five seconds back, alongside Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang.

With Saturday’s fourth stage likely to be another bunch finish, the five-day race will be settled in a 14.2km time trial around the coastal town of Barbate on Sunday.

Froome, who is 28 seconds back adrift of the leader, is competing for the first time since an adverse drugs test was made public.

He has to explain to cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, how he returned double the allowed level of legal asthma drug Salbutamol in his urine during his Vuelta a Espana victory in September.

Team Sky have said Froome’s next race will be at the Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy in March.

Stage three result

1. Sacha Modolo (Ita/EF Education First) 3hrs 48mins 18secs

2. Carlos Barbero (Spa/Movistar) Same time

3. Nelson Andres Soto (Col/Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) Same

4 Oscar Gatto (Ita/Astana) Same time

5. Moreno Hofland (Ned/Lotto-Soudal) Same time

6. Jon Aberasturi (Spa/Euskadi-Murias) Same time

7. Eduard Michael Grosu (Rou/ Nippo-Vini Fantini) Same time

8. Coen Vermeltfoort (Ned/Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) Same time

9. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita/Wanty-Groupe Gobert) Same time

10. Colin Joyce (US/Rally Cycling) Same time

General classification

1. Wout Poels (Ned/Sky) at 12hrs 48mins

2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa/Astana) +3secs

3. Tim Wellens (Bel/Lotto-Soudal) +3secs

4. Mikel Landa (Spa/Movistar) +5secs

5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana) +5secs

6. Marc Soler (Spa/Movistar) +18secs

7. Chris Froome (GB/Sky) +28secs

8 Mikel Bizkarra (Spa/Euskadi-Murias) +35secs

9. Amaro Antunes (Por/CCC Sprandi Polkowice) +39secs

10. Jelle Vanendert (Bel/Lotto-Soudal) +39secs

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Chris Froome seventh after stage two of the Ruta del Sol

Chris Froome

Chris Froome is competing for the first time since September 2017

Chris Froome finished seventh on stage two of the Ruta del Sol, as Team Sky team-mate Wout Poels won the stage.

The four-time Tour de France champion is competing for the first time since his adverse drugs test was made public and admitted he will not be challenging for the title in Spain.

Froome, 32, finished 27 seconds behind Dutchman Poels, with Luis Leon Sanchez in second and Tim Wellens third.

“I’m not feeling my absolute best and it’s my first race,” said Froome.

  • Froome’s high-profile return in a low-key race
  • Adverse drugs test will not affect Tour de France plans – Froome

Speaking to Sky Sports after the 140km stage from Otura to La Guardia de Jaen, he added: “I wasn’t coming here expecting to smash the whole race.”

Wellens broke clear inside the final kilometre but the Belgian faltered on the gruelling climb.

Poels and Spain’s Sanchez fought for the line, with the 30-year-old Dutchman prevailing by two seconds to win the stage and take the overall lead.

Stage two result

1. Wout Poels (Ned/Sky) – 3hrs 38mins 04secs

2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa/Astana) +2secs

3. Tim Wellens (Bel/Lotto-Soudal) +2secs

4. Mikel Landa (Spa/Movistar) +4secs

5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana) +4secs

6. Marc Soler (Spa/Movistar) +17secs

7. Chris Froome (GB/Sky) +27secs

8. Mikel Bizkarra (Spa/Euskadi-Murias) +34secs

9. Amaro Antunes (Por/CCC Sprandi Polkowice) +38secs

10. Jelle Vanendert (Bel/Lotto-Soudal) +38secs

General classification

1. Wout Poels (Ned/Sky) – 3hrs 38mins 04secs

2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa/Astana) + 2secs

3. Tim Wellens (Bel/Lotto-Soudal) +2secs

4. Mikel Landa (Spa/Movistar) +4secs

5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana) +4secs

6. Marc Soler (Spa/Movistar) +17secs

7. Chris Froome (GB/Sky) +27secs

8. Mikel Bizkarra (Spa/Euskadi-Murias) +34secs

9. Amaro Antunes (Por/CCC Sprandi Polkowice) +38secs

10. Jelle Vanendert (Bel/Lotto-Soudal) +38secs

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Froome fever in the Costa del Sol – a high profile return in a low

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I don’t see why I shouldn’t race – Froome

Winning four Tour de France titles, the Vuelta a Espana and two Olympic bronze medals does not necessarily make you famous on the Costa del Sol.

After Chris Froome led out the peloton on Wednesday at the start of the Ruta del Sol, his first race since his adverse drugs test was made public, the crowd quickly dispersed.

Outside an Irish pub near the start line, one woman returned with a photo of Froome, only for her friend to ask: “Who’s that? Is that Bradley Wiggins?”

Even the highest profile riders in cycling can be mistaken for someone else in a low-key Mediterranean coastal village.

That confusion aside, Froome’s presence has undoubtedly raised the profile of this edition of the Ruta del Sol – a five-stage race in Andalucia, which the Team Sky rider won in 2015.

Organisers said they have supplied around 150 media accreditations for the event, six times more than usual.

About 30 of us were duly gathered outside the Team Sky bus in a car park on the outskirts of La Cala de Mijas on Wednesday morning, joined by fans and recreational cyclists.

After leaving the bus, Froome signed a few autographs and posed for photos with fans, thanking them for their support.

Most were offering unconditional support, calling the name “Froomey” as he emerged. Others I spoke to were more guarded, saying they wanted to believe the Briton had done nothing wrong and could clear his name.

When speaking to the media, Froome’s answers were concise and confident, often referring to “the process” as he tries to explain to the UCI how he returned double the permitted level of legal asthma drug salbutamol in a urine test during his Vuelta victory in September.


Chris Froome and former teammate Mikel Landa, of Movistar, before the first stage of the race in Andalucia

Any sense of frustration only became apparent when he said there was “a lot of misinformation out there”, dismissing the “opinions of people who don’t quite fully understand the process”.

The questions will keep coming, likely even after that process is done, but Froome appears determined to shut off the scrutiny when he is on the bike.

He relaxed once he was on the saddle and able to focus on the race ahead, chatting with team-mates as he warmed up on his turbo before proceeding to the start line.

There, the 2015 winner spoke to former team-mate and now Grand Tour rival Mikel Landa – the Spaniard said before the race that Froome was welcome, while others like Tony Martin have criticised his decision to compete.

The talking done, the flag dropped and the peloton and media circus left town, allowing the expats and tourists to return to their coffees or beers and the race itself to become the focus, if only briefly.

France’s Thomas Boudat won the first stage to take the leader’s jersey, beating Italian Sascha Modolo in a dramatic sprint finish in Granada.

Modolo raised his arms after crossing the line, but the photo showed Boudat had edged it.

Do not celebrate too early. If Froome continues to race and wins while his case is unresolved, many cycling fans could be left wondering whether they should salute those victories.

And what if that includes a first Giro d’Italia or fifth Tour win this year? Froome told BBC Sport he hopes his case does not drag out that far, but that he is prepared to ride them because he is allowed to race.

For now, Froome had a solid day on the bike, rolling in with the main peloton in 57th place in the same time as Boudat.

A low-key end to an unusually high-profile day at the Ruta del Sol.

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Storey returns to GB team for Para-Cycling Track Worlds

Sarah Storey

Storey is set to compete in three events in Brazil

The 14-time Paralympic champion Sarah Storey will return to the Great Britain team for next month’s Para-Cycling Track World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Storey has been named in a 22-strong squad for the event from 22-25 March.

The 40-year-old gave birth to her second child in October and missed the 2017 season.

She became Britain’s most decorated female Paralympian at Rio 2016, where she added three golds to her tally.

“I’m delighted to be back in the hunt for rainbow jerseys although I never expected to be back so quickly after Charlie’s arrival four months ago,” Storey said.

“It’s great to welcome Sarah back into the team for the first time since Rio, while it’s also excellent to add some new faces to the squad,” added team programmes manager Jon Pett.

The Worlds team also features Storey’s fellow Rio gold medallists Jody Cundy, Sophie Thornhill, Helen Scott, Lora Fachie, Corrine Hall, Megan Giglia, Steve Bate, Adam Duggleby, Louis Rolfe and Jon-Allan Butterworth.

There are also places for newcomers Katie Toft and Blaine Hunt.

However, Rio cycling and athletics dual star Kadeena Cox will not be taking part because of athletics and university commitments.

Cox will be representing England in the Para-sport athletics events in April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia.

GB team

Women: Lora Fachie Corrine Hall, Sophie Thornhill Helen Scott, Katie Toft, Megan Giglia, Crystal Lane-Wright, Sarah Storey.

Men: Steve Bate Adam Duggleby, James Ball Peter Mitchell, Neil Fachie Matt Rotheram, Louis Rolfe, Ben Watson, Jody Cundy, Jaco Van Gass, Jon-Allan Butterworth, Blaine Hunt, Jon Gildea, William Bjergfelt

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Italy amateur cycling team head arrested in doping investigation

Cycling race in Spain, file picImage copyright

Image caption

Doping scandals have overshadowed some major cycling competitions

Italian police have arrested the head of a top amateur cycling team and several associates suspected of giving cyclists performance-enhancing drugs.

Police raids took place in Lucca and elsewhere in Tuscany, media report.

Luca Franceschi – owner of Altopack-Eppella – and five other top team officials are under house arrest.

The sudden death of a young Lithuanian cyclist last May – 21-year-old Linas Rumsas – raised suspicions. He had been among the top racers in Italy.

Rumsas’s parents Raimondas and Edita had been investigated for alleged doping in 2003.

In that year Raimondas, a professional cyclist, was suspended for a year after testing positive for the banned drug EPO in the Giro d’Italia.

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Image caption

Raimondas Rumsas (R) is seen here next to American Lance Armstrong in the 2002 Tour de France

Police said Mr Franceschi had “recruited the most promising cyclists, encouraged them to take drugs and procured the doping substances for them, including EPO in microdoses”.

Police also allege that Mr Franceschi’s parents – Narciso and Maria Luisa – hosted team cyclists in their home after races and let them inject drugs there.

Besides EPO, performance-enhancing growth hormones and painkillers were also allegedly administered.

Police found 25 vials of EPO in a fridge when they raided the home of Michele Viola, one of the team’s trainers.

Altopack’s sports director Elso Frediani and a pharmacist, Andrea Bianchi, are the other suspects under house arrest. Lucca police are also investigating 17 others.

Police searches also took place in Pistoia, Livorno and Bergamo provinces.

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