Spanish veteran Valverde signs on with Movistar until 2021

Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde, the current world road race champion, has extended his contract with the Movistar team until the end of 2021.

MADRID — Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde, the current world road race champion, has extended his contract with the Movistar team until the end of 2021.

The 39-year-old "has signed an additional two-year contract with the Movistar Team as a rider. After that, he will remain a member of the Abarca Sports organisation at least through the end of 2024", Movistar said in a statement.

"I'm so happy with this extension. Everyone knows the Movistar Team is home to me. I've always felt really loved and respected here, and I'm so happy to be able to stay with the team for the next two years," said Valverde.

"It gives me the calmness and confidence I need to keep working hard and enjoying bike racing. I will fight for new victories, as many as we can, and also help our team-mates to achieve big success wherever possible in the future."

Valverde, who served a two-year ban from 2010 for his implication in the Operation Puerto drugs scandal which erupted in 2006, has notched up 125 victories since his career started back in 2002 and claimed seven world medals including gold last year in Salzburg.

Among his titles are the 2009 Vuelta, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which he has won four times, Fleches Wallonnes (five), Tour of Catalunya (three) and Criterium du Dauphine (two).

He has also won four stages of the Tour de France, making the podium in 2015 when finishing third. He has racked up 11 stage wins in the Vuelta and came in third overall in the Giro d'Italia in 2016.

Four-year ban for Austrian

cyclists Denifl, Preidler

Austrian cyclists Stefan Denifl and Georg Preidler have been banned for four years for doping, the Austrian anti-doping agency announced Thursday.

The pair become the first sportspeople to receive a ban following the investigation into the blood doping scandal that blew up at the Nordic world championships in Seefeld, Austria, in February.

Denifl, 31, was banned for blood doping from June 2014 until the end of 2018 and loses all honors gained in that time, including his 2017 Tour of Austria crown and a stage win on Spain's Vuelta in the same year.

Preidler, 29, was found to have doped between February and December 2018, so keeps his third place on the 2016 Giro d'Italia. The pair had both been provisionally suspended by cycling's world governing body the UCI in March.

The UCI last month also suspended two other riders, Slovenian Kristijan Koren and Croatia's Kristijan Durasek, linked to the so-called "Aderlass affair". Ex-Italian champion Alessandro Petacchi and Slovenia's Borut Bozic were also cited by the UCI.

The ongoing investigation is focused on a sports doctor suspected of being at the center of the network, Mark Schmidt, who was already implicated in previous doping cases in cycling.

Arrested in February at his Erfurt offices in Germany, Schmidt is suspected of having helped dope at least 21 sportspeople of eight different nationalities from five sports, according to prosecutors in Munich.

Hungary to stage first three

stages of 2020 Giro d'Italia

The first three stages of next year's Giro d'Italia will be raced in Hungary, the organisers of the Italian race confirmed on Thursday. The Giro will start on Saturday, May 9 with a 9.5km individual time-trial on the streets of Budapest.

The second stage, which will suit the sprinters, starts in the capital before covering 193km to the northwestern city of Gyor. Stage three will start in the central city of Szekesfehervar and race over 197km to Nagykanizsa in southwestern Hungary.

It will be the 14th time that the Giro has started outside Italy. Last year's edition started in Jerusalem, the first time one of cycling's three major races began outside of Europe.

Ecuador's Richard Carapaz won this year's race, which got under way in Bologna and finished in Verona. — AFP