Wayde van Niekerk breezes to another historic 400m time (video)

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In his first major 400m since Rio, Wayde Van Niekerk showed promise that he could challenge his world record at the world championships next month.

The South African won in 43.62 seconds in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday, easing up in the final few strides in the fastest time in the world since his 43.03 world record at the Olympics.

“I do have a love-hate relationship with the 400m,” Van Niekerk said, according to the IAAF. “Finishing a 400m is always painful but, this time around, I am actually pleasantly surprised about how I digest the lactic acid.”

Full Lausanne results are here.

It’s Van Niekerk’s third-fastest time ever — trailing only Rio and his 2015 World title. Nobody else has run that fast since 2007. Only Michael Johnson‘s 43.44 from the 1996 Olympic Trials was faster this early in a year.

Van Niekerk is the clear favorite for worlds in London, where the men’s 400m final is Aug. 8 and he plans to race the 200m later in the meet. Upstart American Fred Kerley is the only other man to break 44 seconds this year, clocking 43.70 at an NCAA meet on May 26.

Van Niekerk has already set personal bests in the 100m, 200m and 300m this year.

Also Thursday, Justin Gatlin won the 100m in 9.96 seconds, his third straight race between 9.95 and 9.98 seconds. However, the 35-year-old Gatlin has slowed this year, coming off a leg injury. He ran 9.80 and 9.75 in Lausanne in 2014 and 2015.

“I’m not at my A-game at the moment,” Gatlin said, according to the IAAF. “That shows I am human. … And I’ve shown that even with setbacks in my preparation, I am still a competitor. I have been consistent under 10 [seconds], and that is important.”

Gatlin, the Rio silver medalist, beat a field Thursday that did not include Usain Bolt (who has not broken 10 in two races this year), Jamaican champion Yohan Blake or Olympic bronze medalist Andre De Grasse.

In the women’s 400m hurdles, Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad walked off after the first hurdle. Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Spencer won in 53.90, though Spencer failed to qualify for worlds by placing fourth at the USATF Outdoor Championships two weeks ago.

Rio gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz finished seventh in the 1500m in his first Diamond League meet of the year. Centrowitz, the first U.S. Olympic 1500m champion in 108 years, was second at the USATF Outdoor Championships after a series of setbacks, including an emergency room visit.

Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers took the women’s 200m in 22.10 seconds, well off the fastest time in the world this year held by Tori Bowie (21.77). However, Bowie and Olympic 200m gold medalist Elaine Thompson may both skip the 200m at worlds, opening the door for the defending world champ Schippers and Olympic 400m winner Shaunae Miller-Uibo.

Christian Taylor lost an international triple jump for the first time since May 2015. Cuban rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo outdistanced the double Olympic champion, 17.60 meters to 17.49.

Olympic champion Ryan Crouser won the shot put with a 22.39-meter heave. Crouser and 2015 World champion Joe Kovacs have combined for the 18 best throws in the world this year, with Crouser holding 14 of them. But Kovacs wasn’t in the Lausanne field.

Maria Lasitskene, competing as a neutral high jumper during Russia’s ban, missed on three attempts at a world-record height of 2.10 meters. Still, the 2015 World champion cleared 2.06, best in the world since 2011.

The Diamond League moves to London on Sunday, with NBC Sports Gold coverage at 7:20 a.m. ET and Universal HD coverage at 9 ET.

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MORE: Olympic 400m champion to miss world champs

Chris Froome can clinch Tour de France title No. 4 in time trial

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Chris Froome moved one step closer to his fourth Tour de France title by finishing in the same time as his rivals in the 19th of 21 stages on Friday.

Now, Froome focuses on a 14-mile time trial in Marseille on Saturday, where he is heavily favored to defend his 23-second lead over Frenchman Romain Bardet and 29-second advantage on Colombian Rigoberto Uran.

Sunday’s finale — the ride into Paris — is traditionally not a day for attacking the yellow jersey.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold coverage starts at 7:30 a.m. ET on Saturday.

On Friday, Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen won his first Tour stage in six years on the three-week event’s longest day (138 miles). Boasson Hagen pulled away from an eight-rider group in the last two miles and crossed five seconds ahead of German Nikias Arndt.

Froome, Bardet and Uran were in the large group finishing about 10 minutes later.

TOUR: Results/Standings | Highlights | Broadcast Schedule

Froome, 32, is trying to move within one Tour title of the career record of five shared by Jacques AnquetilEddy MerckxBernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

Froome has been the anchor of cycling’s most powerful team — Team Sky — for five seasons now. Every time the rail-thin Brit has reached the Champs-Élysées in that time, he has been wearing the yellow jersey. The only miss was when he abandoned on Stage 5 in 2014 after crashing three times in two days.

Bardet, 26, was runner-up to Froome in last year’s Tour by 4:05. No Frenchman has won the Tour since Hinault in 1985 — the host nation’s longest victory drought.

Uran, 30 and the 2012 Olympic road race silver medalist, is trying to become the first South American to win the Tour.

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MORE: 10 Tour de France riders to watch

WATCH LIVE: Usain Bolt in final race before world championships

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Usain Bolt races for the last time before his farewell world championships, live during NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold‘s coverage of a Diamond League meet in Monaco on Friday starting at 2 p.m. ET.

Bolt will put his four-year winning streak on the line in a 100m race against his toughest field since the Rio Olympics.

The race start is set for 3:35 p.m. A meet preview is here.

The Jamaican will retire after racing the 100m and 4x100m worlds in London in August, with Monaco being his only other meet left this season.

WATCH LIVE: Usain Bolt races in Monaco — 2 p.m. ET

There are doubts about Bolt’s form with worlds in two weeks. He failed to break 10 seconds in his first two races this season in June before seeing his German doctor to work on his chronically balky back.

Fortunately for Bolt, nobody else is performing that well this season, either. None of his top rivals in recent years — Yohan BlakeAndre De Grasse and Justin Gatlin — have broken 9.90 seconds this season.

The Monaco field includes two of the five fastest men in the world this year — South African Akani Simbine and American Chris Belcher — and four men overall who have broken 10 seconds in 2017.

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MORE: Bolt says women are outperforming men in sprints