Lolo Jones

Lolo Jones re-energized after emotionally stressful bobsled season

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Lolo Jones lacked motivation to return to track and field after the Sochi Olympics, but her recent travel log shows she’s over it.

Jones cleared hurdles on three continents last week.

On June 8, she won a 100m hurdles race in a season’s best 12.74 seconds in Marrakech, Morocco (video here). It wasn’t a major meet, but the field included World Indoor 60m hurdles champion Nia Ali, Olympic bronze medalist Kellie Wells and Kristi Castlin, who was the co-world leader two weeks ago.

Jones then moved to China for an exhibition race on a TV show against a local celebrity. Jones had to run over 10 hurdles, while the celebrity only had to clear one.

“I dominated,” Jones said. “I probably should have let him win. I feel bad.”

Jones then went through another unique experience. She opened her Diamond League season at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York on Saturday, one day after landing from a 17-hour flight from China.

Jones said she was on the bubble to get into the meet initially because other hurdlers have faster times than her this season (it was a slow start as she dropped more than 20 bobsled pounds after Sochi). When a lane opened up, she jumped at the chance after not getting into a Diamond League meet in Rome on June 5. And even though she was already booked for the Chinese TV spot.

She did well in New York considering the tiring circumstances, finishing third in 12.77 seconds behind Queen Harrison and Dawn Harper-Nelson.

“I felt great over five [hurdles], and then I was like, all right, I feel you jetlag, you win,” Jones said. “I’ve never done anything like this before.

“I was actually nervous something bad would happen,” said Jones, who joked she saw a mirage of 20 hurdles at the start line. “This [third place] is good. I’ll take this.”

Jones, 31, is transitioning back to track and field after cutting her season short last July 4 to focus on making the Sochi Olympic Team in bobsled. She made it to Russia and finished 11th, becoming one of 10 Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games.

She called her third Olympic experience emotionally stressful.

“When I got done, physically, I was ready to keep going, but mentally, I was drained,” Jones said. “I kept telling my coach I don’t have any motivation. There’s really no point for this track season. There’s no World Championships. There’s nothing on the line. I’m having a hard time getting refocused. So it took me like two months to really get energized. It wasn’t really until I started competing, I was like, well, my goal for this year will be to compete against myself this year, have a personal best.”

Jones’ best-ever time came in the 2008 Olympic semifinals, a 12.43. She entered the final as a favorite, took the lead after six of 10 hurdles but hit the ninth, falling to seventh place. The winner, Harper-Nelson, clocked 12.54, .11 of a second slower than Jones’ semi time.

In 2012, Jones made the Olympic Team by .04 of a second and finished fourth in the Olympic final.

The last American to make three Olympic teams in her event was two-time Olympic 100m champ Gail Devers, who made five straight from 1988 through 2004 but never won an Olympic hurdles medal.

The U.S. is very deep in the 100m hurdles. There’s the reigning Olympic medalists Harper-Nelson and Wells, the World Indoor champion Ali, the rising Castlin, Harrison and, above them all, World champion Brianna Rollins.

There are seven U.S. women faster than Jones this year (there were four last year), so she has catching up to do.

Jones said her bobsled future is up in the air. If she competes on ice next season, she said it will only be for the early North American portion that concludes in December. She doesn’t plan to at all in 2015-16 as the Rio Olympics near.

“I don’t think I can do a full season because it delays my start for track,” she said. “This year I kept feeling rushed to compete [in track after Sochi], and I’d like to just be able to be on cue.”

One thing bobsled has done is give Jones a greater love for track. She competed in front of a larger crowd Saturday than she did in Sochi (though track meets are more fan accommodating than bobsled races).

“It made me more humble and enjoy more things about track that I didn’t before,” Jones said.

Like pay.

“It makes you appreciate the [track] meets where you’re making like $500,” Jones said. “In bobsled, that may be four races.

“I’ve seen the bottom of the barrel.”

Jones next plans to run at the U.S. Championships in Sacramento, Calif., next week and then determine the rest of her European season. But at the end of a high-mileage week, she could only think of her immediate future.

“I want to sleep now,” Jones said.

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Nate Holland still motivated by repeated Olympic heartbreak

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At 38 years old, Nate Holland knows PyeongChang would likely be his last chance to add an Olympic medal to a trophy case already blinding with seven X Games snowboard cross gold medals.

“I’m not there to get top 10 and go check out a hockey game,” Holland said last month. “I’ve had three Olympics that I’ve done that.”

Holland entered all three Olympics since snowboard cross debuted as the reigning X Games champion. A medal contender, if not the favorite.

He washed out each time. In the quarterfinals in Torino. In the four-man final in Vancouver. In the first elimination round in Sochi.

“There’s something about these five rings that give me a lot of drive, ambition and joy,” Holland said on NBC after his 2014 disappointment, “but they do cause a lot of heartbreak.”

Some snowboarders are ambivalent about the Olympics. Not Holland.

He remembers watching the 1988 Calgary Winter Games growing up in Idaho, a decade before snowboarders were let in. After snowboard cross was added in 2003, a motivated Holland made the subsequent World Cup team and reached the podium.

Holland chalked up a 14th-place finish in Torino in 2006 to being “young and reckless.” The miss that sticks with him to this day is Vancouver 2010, when he was the only finalist not to earn a medal.

“That’s probably the No. 1 memory of racing is that feeling of failure when I got to the bottom,” he said. “Out of a four-man heat, they’re ushering me off, pushing me out of the finish corral.

“Dude, you gotta leave. What are you doing here still? We’ve got to do a podium ceremony.”

“I’m still out of breath. My heart rate’s at 180 still.”

“What’s going on? No, dude, you need to leave. Thanks for coming, goodbye.”

“Those are motivating factors in the gym when all I want to do is go home and go change some diapers,” Holland said.

Holland and wife Christen (who commissioned that trophy case as a Christmas gift) welcomed daughter Lux on Nov. 1, 2015. Lux is already riding on her own three-foot Burton board. In Uggs.

“Thank God for FaceTime,” Holland said. “I’m able to call every day when I’m in Europe and have breakfast with my daughter.”

Her dad is trying to become the oldest U.S. Olympic snowboarder in the sport’s two-decade history and the oldest medalist from any country.

“Some say I’m too old,” Holland says. “I say BS.”

Holland is realistic, though. The man who used to ride by the motto “wreck or win” has become more calculated and listens to his body. The Advil doses are more frequent. He enjoys the spa.

“I come back every year and there’s definitely some question in my mind whether I’m fast,” said Holland, whose detailed injury history included coming back from a December 2013 broken clavicle to win X Games and make the Olympic team. “Every year, I give myself a little pat on the back. I’m like, all right, I’m still in that group. I’m not sitting three seconds out.”

Holland was the fastest at the PyeongChang venue on Feb. 27, 2016, winning the Olympic test event.

He may have picked up nuances on the new Olympic course that the riders half his age have not, but Holland also hasn’t made a World Cup podium since. Snowboard cross was cut from the X Games after 2016.

If Holland can’t crack the top three at any of the four Olympic selection events in December and January, he might be left off the U.S. team.

Holland said he won’t work any harder this winter than he did in 2006, 2010 or 2014. Each time, he felt satisfied with what he put in. What he left the Olympics with — Team USA clothes, maybe some hockey ticket stubs — is what’s unfulfilling.

“You want something that you can’t have,” he said. “I don’t have an Olympic medal, and I’m really passionate about it.”

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Tour de France route for 2018 unveiled

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PARIS (AP) — Defending champion Chris Froome can expect a stern challenge from Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin in next year’s Tour de France.

Froome is chasing a record-equaling fifth victory to move level with Belgian great Eddy Merckx, French riders Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain.

Froome and Dumoulin won the three Grand Tours last year, with Froome adding the Spanish Vuelta and Dumoulin winning the Giro d’Italia.

The 105th edition of the Tour features a hilly 31-kilometer (19-mile) time trial through the Basque country on the penultimate day.

Froome is a specialist, but Dumoulin is the reigning world time trial champion.

The 32-year-old Froome is still in his prime, while the 26-year-old Dumoulin is approaching his.

“A contest between Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin, two riders with similar qualities, wouldn’t displease me. It would force one of the two to try something different to surprise the other,” Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme said Tuesday. “We’re looking at a new generation that wants to entertain. I think that if Christopher Froome is up against Tom Dumoulin, they will want to do that. They will be more or less equal in the time trials. That’s something very exciting.”

The race starts on July 7 — a week later than usual because of the soccer World Cup in Russia — and opens with a flat 117-mile route for sprinters from Noirmoutier-en-l’ile to Fontenay-le-Comte in the Vendee region, on the Atlantic coast.

With the time trial returning after being omitted the last two years, Froome’s Team Sky will be confident of creating early time gaps on Stage 3 — 21.7-mile route starting and ending in Cholet in Western France.

But Sky faces tough competition, because Dumoulin’s Sunweb team is the reigning TTT world champion.

The Tour route, which goes clockwise, features 25 mountain climbs — ranging from the relatively difficult Category 2 to Category 1 and the daunting Hors Categorie (beyond classification).

Eleven are in the Alps, four in the Massif central region and 10 in the Pyrenees.

The difficult climbs start on Stage 10, the first of three straight days of grueling Alpine ascents.

But organizers have preceded that with a tricky ninth stage that could shake up the peloton.

It takes riders over 15 treacherous cobblestone sections: the highest number since the 1980 Tour, with nearly 13.6 miles altogether.

The Roubaix cobbles may perhaps trouble Froome, although Prudhomme thinks the British rider can handle anything.

“The leaders of the Tour have the ability to adapt. We’ve seen that Chris Froome has a range of abilities much wider than people said,” Prudhomme said. “He’s intelligent and hard-working. He keeps on winning in a different manner than in previous years.”

Even though Froome will be 33 on next year’s Tour, Prudhomme still thinks he can improve.

“I don’t think we’ve seen everything that Froome has to offer,” Prudhomme said. “He is strong in areas we didn’t think he was.”

The cobbles are followed by a rest day on July 16, and Froome had better make the most of it because the Alps start brutally the day after.

Stage 10 on July 17 has four difficult climbs on a 98.6-mile route from Annecy to Le Grand Bornand. They include a punchy ascent of Montee du plateau de Glieres, featuring for the first time.

“Six kilometers with an 11.2 percent gradient is monumental,” Prudhomme said.

The third day of Alpine climbing begins with Col de la Madeleine, then Croix de Fer (which translates as the ominous-sounding Iron Cross) and ends with an ascent of l’Alpe d’Huez: three of the Tour’s most well-known.

Dumoulin is not in Froome’s class as a climber, but is not so easy to drop. Whether he can hang in with Froome all the way to the Pyrenees, however, will prove crucial to his chances.

The three tough days of climbing in the Pyrenees starts with Stage 16 on July 24: a daunting 135-mile route from Carcassone to Bagneres-de-Luchon that follows the second rest day.

Stage 17 is short at 40 miles but cruel, with three consecutive nasty climbs, ending with an attack up Col de Portet.

Stage 18 is relatively flat but the next day’s third and final day of climbing on Stage 19 has four ascents and then ends with a potentially treacherous 12.4-mile descent that will test the concentration of tired riders.

Whoever is freshest after that will have a better chance of challenging Froome in the time trial.

The 21-stage race ends with its customary processional Sunday finish on the Champs-Elysees.

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