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Valverde hits afterburners to take lead

CYCLING: Alejandro Valverde sprinted away from an exhausted peloton to win the sixth stage and take the overall lead in the Tour of Spain, with Chris Froome and Alberto Contador following the Spaniard across the line.

Dutchman Pim Ligthart and Lluis Mas Bonet of Spain staged a breakaway for the vast majority of the 167.1 km stage from the Mediterranean coast into the mountains, but they were caught with the finish almost in sight.

The peloton was whittled down to about a dozen riders on the final category-one climb to La Zubia as Valverde and Nairo Quintana, both of Movistar, took control at the front.

Colombia's Quintana finished fifth behind two former Tour de France champions - Britain's Froome (Team Sky), in second, and Spaniard Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), in third.

Ireland's Dan Martin is 17th in the general classification after finishing 18th on the stage, while compatriot Philip Deignan was well off the pace in 132nd and lies 79th overall.

Molinari in hunt for spot

GOLF: Francesco Molinari, who believes he needs to win this week's Italian Open to snatch a last-gasp Ryder Cup place, took a share of the lead after the first round in Turin.

The 31-year-old Italian is outside the top nine qualifying positions going into the last counting event and is hoping to force captain Paul McGinley's hand as the Dubliner prepares to announce his three wildcard picks next Tuesday.

"I have been in contact with Paul and texting throughout the season, as I am sure he has done with all of the guys, and we had a chat at the start of the week," said Molinari after joining Austrian Bernd Wiesberger on six-under-par 66.

Stephen Gallacher, six shots off the pace, can displace Graeme McDowell in the top nine automatic Ryder Cup selections by finishing first or second this week.

Evans beaten

BADMINTON: Scott Evans bowed out of the World Championships in Copenhagen yesterday, going down to top-ranked Malaysian Lee Chong Wei.

The Irish number one lost out in straight sets, 21-11, 21-12.