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Italian Paolini takes Giro lead

CYCLING: Lucan Paolini timed his effort perfectly to win the third stage of the Giro d'Italia and snatch the overall leader's pink jersey at the end of an eventful ride yesterday.

Paolini, whose Katusha team were a late inclusion in the race after they won a place on the World Tour (elite) following an appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), attacked in the final descent of the 222km trek from Sorrento.

Australian Cadel Evans and defending champion Ryder Hesjedal of Canada finished second and third respectively, taking precious time bonuses. Pre-race favourites Bradley Wiggins of Britain and Italian Vincenzo Nibali finished safe in the lead chase group.

Italian Michele Scarponi, a potential race winner, crashed in the descent, while Hesjedal rode in a surprisingly aggressive fashion.

The Canadian climber, who gave his Garmin-Sharp team their maiden Grand Tour title last year, put his rivals under pressure with repeated attacks in the final climb and descent, but Paolini, a one-day race specialist, was the strongest on the day and chose the right moment to surge away from the lead group.

Riding his first Giro at 36, Paolini barely looked back and crossed the finish line 16 seconds ahead of the chasing group. Paolini led the overall standings by 17 seconds, with Wiggins in second for Team Sky.


O'Brien's Lightning century seals victory

CRICKET: A superb unbeaten 111 from Kevin O'Brien saw his Leinster Lightning side overcome the challenge of the Northern Knights in the final over of their opening game in the RSA Inter-Provincial Trophy at a sun-drenched Hills Cricket Club in Skerries.

It looked a lost cause for Lightning after they slipped to 189 for 8 chasing a victory target of 260, but O'Brien had other ideas as he found the boundaries with increasing regularity in the crucial overs.

Having reached his half century from 58 balls he smashed 61 runs from the next 29 balls to wrest victory away from the Knights.

O'Brien dominated a ninth wicket stand of 70 with Fintan McAllister (11*) which took just 6.3 overs, with the Malahide keeper playing his part in giving O'Brien the all important strike.

The Railway Union and Ireland international showed all his experience as he cleared the ropes four times in the closing stages.


Drouet sympathy for Australian No1 Tomic

tennis: Thomas Drouet expressed his sympathy for Australian number one Bernard Tomic after claiming he was headbutted by the player's father.

John Tomic appeared in a Madrid court yesterday to deny charges of assaulting his son's practice partner Drouet shortly after their arrival in the city for the latest Masters Series event.

A second hearing has been scheduled for May 14. Frenchman Drouet, who left the court with bandages over his nose and left eye, said: "I feel bad for Bernard because he is a person who must feel sad for what his father is doing. "I wish him all the best, Bernard is a nice guy. I will recover and see what happens."


Lions test is 'once in lifetime' for Horwill

RUGBY: Wallabies skipper James Horwill is looking forward to the "series of a lifetime" against the British and Irish Lions after yesterday signing an extension to his deal with the Australia Rugby Union (ARU) until 2015.

The 27-year-old lock, who missed the last international season through injury, had already extended his deal with the Queensland Reds and was therefore unlikely to join fellow Wallabies Drew Mitchell and Digby Ioane in heading to France.

Horwill will be one of the first names on the team-sheet for the Lions clashes and is likely to lead his country into the highly-anticipated series. "Playing the British and Irish Lions is a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said.


Hamilton: We have lost respect Senna had

FORMULA 1: Lewis Hamilton believes his sport has lost something because of what technology and officials allow star drivers like Sebastian Vettel to get away with.

Mercedes star Hamilton is full of admiration for Ayrton Senna, who drove at a time in the late 1980s, when the sport was less technical and more dangerous.

Hamilton said: "If you watch Sebastian Vettel now he always runs over the Astroturf and over the kerb a little more than he should, going beyond the white line, which you're not actually allowed to do but they let you get away with it.

"In Senna's day, if he went one foot over that kerb, it would be grass and he would spin, and be penalised. He would be right on the limit, rather than over the limit – and I respect that style of driving more.


Belfast runners in Boston victims tribute

ATHLETICS: More than 17,000 runners observed a special moment of silence at yesterday's Belfast Marathon in memory of those killed at the Boston Marathon.

The men's title was won by Joel Kipsang in 2:19.27, ahead of fellow Kenyan James Rotitich (2:19:57) and Feddy Sittuk (2:24:39), while Ukranian Nataliya Lehonkova set a new women's record of 2:36.50.

Ireland's Olympic boxing medallists Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlon, running for the Oscar Knox charity, were among those who took part in the popular team relay section.