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Richard Carapaz wins Giro d’Italia, first Ecuadorian to claim Grand Tour

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VERONA, Italy — Richard Carapaz became Ecuador’s first Grand Tour champion as he won the Giro d’Italia on Sunday, while American Chad Haga was fastest on the final stage’s individual time trial.

Carapaz, who rides for Movistar, keeled over his handlebars with emotion inside the Arena di Verona after the 17-kilometer (10.5-mile) route.

The 26-year-old Carapaz has worn the leader’s pink jersey since winning the grueling 14th stage on May 25.

“This is the biggest moment of my sporting life,” Carapaz said. “In this final time trial I just suffered from start to finish until I reached the arena of Verona. It’s fabulous to win the Giro d’Italia.”

The Ecuadorian finished the three-week race one minute, five seconds ahead of home favorite Vincenzo Nibali and 2:30 ahead of Slovenian cyclist Primoz Roglic, who leapfrogged Mikel Landa into third spot.

“I don’t have any regrets, we all had a good Giro d’Italia, which was very hard-fought,” Nibali said. “I had great rivals, Carapaz showed he is strong and that he deserved it … Carapaz didn’t steal anything, he was really strong.”

Both Carapaz and Nibali took their children onto the podium with them as they collected their trophies.

Carapaz’s parents had also flown over from Ecuador and revealed it was the first time they had been on a plane.

Haga had told his wife to stay at home.

“Maybe that was a mistake,” the Team Sunweb cyclist said as he smiled through tears of joy in a post-race interview. “This is for everyone who believed in me and supported me and sacrificed for me.

“I gave everything today and to finally win … it’s very special.”

Haga had thought about quitting cycling after he and five other teammates were hospitalized after being hit by a car while they were training in Calpe, Spain. The incident happened in January 2016, when he was part of Team Giant-Alpecin.

It was Haga’s first stage victory in a Grand Tour. He was four seconds faster than Victor Campenaerts and six faster than Thomas De Gendt.

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MORE: NBC Sports Gold launches 2019-20 Cycling Pass

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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