Elana Meyers Taylor
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Bobsled, skeleton world championships broadcast schedule, preview

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Elana Meyers Taylor says she’s starting to become herself again. Good timing, since the world championships start this weekend.

Meyers Taylor is the top U.S. gold-medal hope at bobsled and skeleton worlds in Koenigssee, Germany. Races will stream live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, beginning with first two women’s bobsled runs Friday at 8:15 a.m. ET.

The two-time Olympic medalist Meyers Taylor is riding a four-race winning streak on the World Cup, but it’s taken plenty of physical and mental pain to get here. She suffered a concussion in a race crash in Koenigssee on Jan. 26, 2015, with the after-effects lasting into the 2015-16 season, causing her to miss four races.

This season, Meyers Taylor has competed from the start. But she crashed in the season-opening race in Whistler, B.C., and dealt with back pain for most of the last three months. On top of everything, she struggled with the death of one of her grandfathers in early January.

Meyers Taylor teams this weekend with second-year push athlete Kehri Jones, who ejected out of the back of the sled in that Whistler crash.

Worlds were moved from Sochi, Russia, to Koenigssee two months ago amid the Russian doping scandal. Meyers Taylor showed her Koenigssee crash from two years ago was behind her when she won a World Cup race on the track in January.

“I’m confident on this track,” she said earlier this week. “The last time I was here, I was having trouble in the same spot where I had my crash. A little bit of hesitation, a little bit of problems there. Now, everything seems to be clicking down there.”

Meyers Taylor’s goal every season (outside of the Olympics, which she has yet to win) is to sweep the World Cup and world championships titles. That’s exactly what she did in 2015, but Meyers Taylor was third at worlds last season and missed half of the World Cup races due to that concussion.

She attributes recent success to a change in philosophy given the past two years.

“I’ve gotten a different perspective on bobsled,” Meyers Taylor said. “Every day I go out there, I’m just happy to be there and happy to be sliding. I’ve really taken the approach this year to focus on my driving and not worry about winning or losing races. Wins will come if I drive well.”

Her biggest challengers at worlds will come from her longtime top rivals, Canadian Kaillie Humphries and American Jamie Greubel Poser, who joined Meyers Taylor on the Sochi podium. Meyers Taylor led after the first three of four runs at the Olympics before falling behind Humphries in the finale.

The Olympics and worlds are the only events with a four-run format. Humphries leads this season’s World Cup standings through seven of eight races, but Meyers Taylor still believes she’s the woman to beat in Koenigssee.

“I’d be stupid if I didn’t say myself,” she said.

After Koenigssee, the world’s top sliders head to PyeongChang for training on the Olympic track plus the final World Cup of the season. Meyers Taylor, 32, expects to compete beyond 2018, “until the wheels fall off,” but also wants to start a family with her husband.

All but one of the push athletes on the national team were recruited to the sport by Meyers Taylor, making her perhaps the most valuable person in the entire American program.

“It’s called desperation,” she said. “I know that world championships and PyeongChang is going to come down to hundredths of a second. I needed every hundredth of a second I could from a brakeman standpoint. I make it a point to go out there and find my own athletes. If I want something to happen, I’ve got to make sure to do it myself. I can’t leave it up to somebody randomly finding bobsled.”

Jones, whom Meyers Taylor calls her “spark plug,” came over in 2015 after sprinting at Baylor University.

Meyers Taylor was talking with Baylor’s strength-and-conditioning and track-and-field coaches about potential bobsled converts when Jones’ name came up in an email. Jones’ diminutive size (5 feet, 130 pounds) made her valuable in bobsled, where sled weight maximums have been reduced in the last two years.

A look at the other disciplines at worlds:

Men’s Bobsled
German sleds have won 12 of the last 14 two- or four-man world titles on German tracks. The host nation has three drivers capable of taking gold this year — Francesco Friedrich, Johannes Lochner and Nico Walther.

In the two-man, Friedrich is favored to join Italian legend Eugenio Monti as the only drivers to win four straight world titles in any event. He has won four of the seven World Cup races this season after coming back to beat Lochner for his third straight world title last year.

In the four-man, Lochner has won three of the seven races this season, his first full-time on the World Cup circuit. At the race in Koenigssee last month, Lochner and Walther went one-two.

If anybody is to upset the Germans, it may be 2010 Olympic four-man champion Steven Holcomb. The American tied Friedrich for second at the World Cup two-man in Koenigssee last month — behind Lochner — and was fourth in the four-man. He also finished third and sixth in the races at the 2011 Worlds in Koenigssee. These are expected to be the final worlds for the 36-year-old Holcomb.

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Men’s Skeleton
Russian Aleksandr Tretiyakov and Latvian Martins Dukurs enter as co-favorites, having alternated World Cup wins in Koenigssee the last four years and put up strong seasons to date. Tretiyakov topped Dukurs for the Olympic title in Sochi, while Dukurs relegated Tretiyakov to silver at the last two worlds.

Tretiyakov was banned for nine days in December and January after being implicated in the McLaren report on Russian doping leading up to and during Sochi, but the sanction was lifted due to a lack of evidence.

South Korean Yun Sung-Bin, a 2016 World Championships and World Cup runner-up (sharing silver at the former with Tretiyakov), has said he will skip worlds to get more training on the 2018 Olympic track in PyeongChang. That increases the medal chances for Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Matthew Antoine, but the American placed seventh, 10th and 15th in his last three Koenigssee outings.

Women’s Skeleton
Despite its sliding-sports dominance, Germany has never won an Olympic skeleton title. That could change next year. Jacqueline Loelling and Tina Hermann have been the two best women’s sliders over the past two years. At ages 22 and 24, they have succeeded Anja Huber and Marion Thees in the German program.

Loelling leads the World Cup standings and won the race in Koenigssee last month. Last season, Hermann swept the World Cup and World Championships titles, plus won both races in Koenigssee.

Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain returned this season after a one-year break but has one podium finish in six World Cup starts. Likewise, the U.S. women have combined for one World Cup podium, a disappointment after Annie O’Shea finished fourth in last season’s World Cup standings.

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Date Time (ET) Event Network
Friday, 2/17 8:15 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/17 10 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/17 3 p.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/18 4:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 6 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 9:15 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 10:45 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 4 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/18 5 p.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 3-4 Universal HD
Sunday, 2/19 4:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 6 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 9 a.m. Team Event Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 5 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 3-4 NBCSN
Sunday, 2/19 8:30 p.m. Team Event Universal HD
Friday, 2/24 5 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 7 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 9 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 11 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 4 p.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 1-2 Universal HD
Friday, 2/24 5 p.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/25 2:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 3 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 4:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 4 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 7:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 9:15 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 5 p.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 3-4 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/25 6 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Sunday 2/26 2:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 3 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 4:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 4 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 7:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 9:15 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 3:30 p.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 3-4 NBCSN
Sunday 2/26 4:30 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 3-4 NBCSN

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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