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March 10, 2018

Sport Sunday: Cycling's Stages

Cycling has made a comeback in a big way, as two major, but shorter, stage races have been underway this week.  In France, the Route du Soleil, the ride toward the Sun of the annual Paris-Nice competition began last weekend, and wraps up Sunday.  In Italy the ride between the seas began on Wednesday and continues through the weekend, and into the new week.  The Tirreno-Adriatico has brought even more excitement to the cycling world. 

The Tirreno-Adriatico often serves as a preparation ground for those aiming for Milan-San Remo glory as well as those riders thinking of taking home the maglia rosa at the Giro d’Italia in May.  But much like Paris-Nice, the other week-long stage race that runs concurrently, the Italian race has prestige in its own right, with a roll call of winners that would be the envy of any race.  This year's race covers 610 miles (982km) in total, with 36,100 feet (11,000 meters) of elevation. Sunday's Stage five will finish in Filottrano, as a tribute to Italian rider Michele Scarponi who died last year. After four stages, Italian Damiano Caruso, riding for BMC, currently is heading the race, followed by Polish rider  Michal Kwiatkowski, riding for Team Sky.   Sky's Geraint Thomas, from Great Britain, was race leader, until he ended up having to yank on a stuck chain, losing precious seconds. 

The Paris-Nice stage race is no second rate race, it has equal or greater status to the Italian race, and the choice between the two remains with teams and riders.  The French race often suffers from worse weather, being located farther to the north, and that has been the case this year.  Saturday's penultimate stage was particularly problematic in that regard.  At the start of the day, the race’s organizer reported that only six of the 22 teams still had their full complement of seven riders in the race.  LottoNL-Jumbo had started the day with only three riders.  Irish cyclist Dan Martin, who took third place in the same race last year, dropped out Saturday, due to weather concerns.  With the cold, wet conditions set to continue and with the possibility of snow on the final climb to Valdeblore La Colmiane, in today's final stage,  more abandons are expected.  Britain's 25 year old Simon Yates took the overall lead today, riding for Australian team Mitchelton-Scott.  Yates finished stage seven eight seconds ahead of Belgian rider Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing).  In the overall standings he took an 11-second lead over Spain's Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) with Izagirre's brother, Gorka, in third, 12 seconds behind Yates.

In Six Nations Rugby today, Team Italy travels to Wales as the fourth weekend of competition comes to a close.  The Principality Stadium is the site of the meeting between Wales, who started this year's competition strong, besting Scotland, and Italy, who is so far winless this year.  Wales, in fact, have beaten Italy for their last 11 successive meetings.  Wales has rotated in almost an entire fresh squad as starters for Sunday's game.  Italy hopes to take some inspiration in the contest by the victory of the Italian youth squad against Wales in the Under 20 game Friday evening.  Italy captain Sergio Parisse said as much, and described Cardiff's  Principality Stadium as the best place to play Rugby in the world.  Italy's under-20s claimed a historic 18-7 win over Wales in Colwyn Bay on Friday.

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