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Oslo Diamond League preview, broadcast schedule

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Caster Semenya and Andre De Grasse headline a Diamond League meet in Oslo, live on Thursday starting at 12:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold and 2 p.m. on NBCSN.

The Olympic champion Semenya puts her 16-meet winning streak on the line in the 800m against the Rio silver and bronze medalists.

De Grasse, a three-time Olympic medalist for Canada, could be the top challenger to Usain Bolt in Bolt’s final individual race at the world championships in August. But De Grasse finished fourth and fifth in his first two Diamond League 100m races this season. He needs a win in Oslo to stay in the gold-medal conversation.

U.S. athletes in Oslo are preparing for the national championships in Sacramento, Calif., next week. At nationals, the top three per event will qualify for worlds.

Oslo start lists are available here. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

12:15 p.m. — Women’s pole vault
1:57 — Men’s discus
1:57 — Women’s discus
2:03 — Men’s 400m
2:12 — Men’s high jump
2:17 — Women’s 100m hurdles
2:20 — Women’s long jump
2:45 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
3:03 — Men’s 100m
3:10 — Women’s 800m
3:25 — Men’s 400m hurdles
3:40 — Women’s 200m
3:50 — Men’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s/Women’s Discus — 1:57 p.m. ET

The men’s and women’s discus events are held simultaneously this season for the first time. The last four Olympic champions are represented in Oslo — German brothers Robert and Christoph Harting and Croatian Sandra Perkovic, the 2012 and 2016 women’s gold medalist.

Neither Harting has been particularly impressive in limited action so far this season. Instead, Jamaican Fedrick Dacres owns the two best throws of 2017. Jamaica reigns in the sprints, but it has never had a Diamond League winner in a throwing event.

Perkovic puts her 15-meet winning streak on the line against Rio silver medalist Mélina Robert-Michon of France and Rio bronze medalist Denia Caballero of Cuba.

Men’s High Jump — 2:12 p.m. ET

The best field of the meet. The top five from the Rio Olympics are entered, led by gold medalist Derek Drouin of Canada. But Drouin no-heighted in his 2017 Diamond League debut in Shanghai.

Instead, the favorite Thursday is Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim. The Rio silver medalist has won all four of his competitions this year, clearing heights that nobody in the world has matched in 2017.

Men’s 100m — 3:03 p.m. ET

De Grasse, the Olympic 100m bronze medalist and 200m silver medalist, could really use a win here. Only one man in the field has broken 9.90 in his career or 10.0 this season, and it’s not the Canadian phenom. It’s veteran Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut.

In De Grasse’s favor: His fourth- and fifth-place 100m finishes earlier this season were against stronger fields, and he’s coming off a 200m win last week in Rome. He may be rounding into form as the Canadian Championships approach in early July.

Women’s 800m — 3:10 p.m. ET

The scrutinized Semenya hasn’t lost since 2015, but she’s looking vulnerable. Kenyan Margaret Wambui, who took bronze in Rio 1.6 seconds behind Semenya, closed the gap in their first two meetings this season.

Wambui made Semenya run hard through the line in Doha (losing by a respectable .42) and then scared Semenya in Eugene three weeks later (losing by one tenth of a second). This time last year, Semenya was winning races by one second, so relaxed it looked like she could have gone one or two seconds faster.

Now, Wambui is a worthy challenger in Oslo.

Women’s 200m — 3:40 p.m. ET

Olympic silver medalist Dafne Schippers is the class of the field. Nobody else is ranked in the top 35 in the world this year, so the Dutchwoman is more racing against the top 200m times posted elsewhere in 2017.

The target will be to get near Tori Bowie‘s world-leading 21.77 seconds set at the Pre Classic, where Schippers was fourth in 22.30, her lowest 200m finish in five years.

A more realistic goal for Schippers would be to break 22 seconds, which she did in winning Oslo last year.

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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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Salt Lake City forms committee to weigh Olympic bid

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City has formed an exploratory committee to decide if the city will bid to host the Winter Olympics in either 2026 or 2030 — taking a key step toward trying to become a rare two-time host city.

The group made up of elected officials, business leaders and one key member of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City said Monday that it plans to make a recommendation to state leaders by Feb. 1.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Olympic Committee board said Friday that it was moving forward with discussions about bringing the Winter Games to America for either 2026 or 2030.

Because Los Angeles was recently awarded the 2028 Summer Games, a bid for 2030 would make more sense, chairman Larry Probst said Friday.

The USOC has until next March to pick a city; those expressing interest include Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno, Nevada.

Innsbruck, Austria, said Sunday it wouldn’t bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, taking one more city out of the running. The hosting rights are set to be awarded in July 2019.

The same country hasn’t hosted back-to-back Olympics since before World War II, though when the International Olympic Committee scrapped its traditional rules and awarded 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (LA) at the same time, it indicated it was certainly open to new ideas.

Since 2012, Salt Lake City has been letting Olympic officials know the city was ready and willing to host again with a plan based on renovating and upgrading venues that have been in use since the Games ended.

The city had previously estimated it could put on a Winter Olympics for about $2 billion, but the committee will come up with a new cost estimate, said Jeff Robbins, the president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission.

Robbins is one of three co-chairs on the committee along with Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Fraser Bullock, a key player in Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympics.

Robbins said he thinks the city has a great shot at winning a bid based on the relatively low cost and because it has demonstrated it knows how to maintain venues and keep them in use, putting the city in line with Agenda 2020, the blueprint that IOC President Thomas Bach created for future Olympics calling for less spending on new venues and infrastructure.

There’s an eight-lane interstate running from the Salt Lake airport, which was upgraded for the Olympics, to Park City, which is the home of U.S. Ski and Snowboard. Park City is the host for key U.S. training centers for freestyle skiing, speedskating and cross country skiing.

Overall, the area has hosted about 75 World Cup and world-championship events in winter sports since the Olympic cauldron was extinguished more than 15 years ago.

He said an expanded light rail train line grid around Salt Lake City and a $3 billion airport renovation already underway are two examples of how Salt Lake City is even better prepared now to host than in 2002.

But he and other organizers will also have to answer questions about a bidding scandal that marred the 2002 Games and resulted in several International Olympic Committee members losing their positions for taking bribes.

“You can’t control the past,” Robbins said. “The results of what happened I think would certainly speak volumes. While there was some challenges, we hosted arguably one of the best Olympics ever hosted.”

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