Chris Froome left with few challengers at Tour de France

Leave a comment

CHAMBERY, France (AP) — Chris Froome probably hoped he had a bigger lead than his 18-second advantage over Fabio Aru on the Tour de France’s first rest day.

At least he’s still in one piece, though.

Richie Porte, Froome’s most feared opponent, and Geraint Thomas, Froome’s most loyal support rider at Team Sky, both crashed out of the race on Sunday.

With Colombian climbing specialist Nairo Quintana and seven-time Grand Tour winner Alberto Contador dropping out of contention, it seems there’s only a handful of riders remaining who can still challenge Froome for the title in Paris on July 23.

Aru, the Italian champion and 2015 Spanish Vuelta winner, leads the list followed closely by last year’s runner-up Romain Bardet, the Frenchman who is third overall, 51 seconds back.

Rigoberto Uran, the Colombian who was a two-time runner-up in the Giro d’Italia, is fourth at 55 seconds and Aru’s Astana teammate, Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark, is fifth at 1:37.

The only other rider within two minutes of Froome is Dan Martin, the Irish cyclist who excels on the shorter, steeper climbs that are so prevalent in this year’s race.

TOUR: Results/Standings | Highlights | Broadcast Schedule

“I said (Saturday) that I expected the general classification to be blown up and looking at it, it has,” Froome said. “It’s a lot more spread out now.”

Froome and the other 181 riders still in the three-week race flew across the country late Sunday to southwestern France, where after Monday’s rest day the race resumes with two flat stages suited for sprinters.

Tuesday’s Stage 10 coverage starts at 7:05 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold and 7:30 on NBCSN.

The overall battle probably won’t see any changes until the race enters the Pyrenees Thursday and Friday with 16-percent slopes to the Peyragudes ski station and 18-percent stretches on the Mur de Peguere.

After some milder climbing in the Massif Central the Tour returns to the Alps for the so-called “Queen stage” — an unprecedented mountain-top finish at the Col d’Izoard.

The hostile terrain of sun- and snow-scorched rocks and the thinning mountain air on the long climb to an altitude of 2,360 meters (7,742 feet) could make the Izoard, at the end of stage 18, the scene of the last major contest between the remaining favorites.

Aiming to secure his fourth title in five years, Froome likely needs only the slimmest of margins — or even a small deficit — entering the 22.5-kilometer (14-mile) time trial in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille on the penultimate stage 20.

A superb time trialer, Froome should be able to take time on all of his rivals in the race against the clock — just like he did in Stage 1.

Whoever wears yellow at the end of the day in Marseille will cruise around the Champs-Elysees in the mostly ceremonial final leg a day later and pick up the trophy.

Right now, though, it’s all about recovery for Froome and the other leaders after Sunday’s punishing mountain leg.

Rest days, however, are not just for resting.

Almost every rider will go out and train for an hour or two Monday just to keep their bodies from shutting down.

Cannondale-Drapac team manager Jonathan Vaughters explained that the approach to rest days isn’t really understood scientifically because there have not been enough studies of elite riders performing three-week races.

“So what you’re doing is based on theory and anecdote. The pure science would say, ‘Stay in bed all day and don’t move.’ But that doesn’t work,” Vaughters said. “It’s the same as turning the engine off. You just can’t get it started again.

“It’s like studying hard for exams. You’re fine, fine, fine. Then you take the exam and get home from the exam and then the next day you have the flu,” Vaughters said. “You’re like, ‘Now I can rest.’ And then boom, you’re sick.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: 10 Tour de France riders to watch

Michael Phelps still has ‘no desire’ to come back

AP
Leave a comment

Michael Phelps says he has “no desire” to return to competitive swimming, but he is eager to stay involved with the sport and cheer on those who follow in his enormous wake.

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press while promoting a healthy pet food campaign, Phelps said he is excited about the birth of his second child and numerous opportunities away from the pool.

It was around this time four years ago when Phelps got serious about ending his first retirement, but he now seems content with his decision to step away again after the Rio Olympics.

His wife, Nicole, is about four months pregnant. The couple already has a 16-month-old son, Boomer.

“I’ve got no desire, no desire to come back,” the 32-year-old Phelps said flatly.

Phelps has attended a handful of swimming meets since the Rio Games, where the winningest athlete in Olympic history added to his already massive career haul by claiming five gold medals plus a silver. A few months ago, he conceded to the AP that he was eager to see how he would feel about a possible comeback after this year’s world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Turns out, it had no impact.

Phelps said watching others compete “truly didn’t kick anything off or spike any more interest in coming out of retirement again.”

He is eager to follow the development of his heir apparent, Caeleb Dressel, who emerged as the sport’s newest star by winning seven gold medals at Budapest. The 21-year-old Floridian joined Phelps and Mark Spitz as the only swimmers to accomplish that feat at a major international meet.

“I’m happy Caeleb decided to go off this year instead of last year,” Phelps joked. “I’m kind of happy to see him swimming so well when I’m not there.”

With Dressel and Katie Ledecky now leading the American team, the U.S. is expected to remain the world’s dominant swimming country heading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Even without Phelps.

“It’s time to kind of move on,” he said, “and watch other people come into their own.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Michael Phelps: I’d give Conor McGregor a head start

Dutch cyclist returns from horrific Rio crash to win world title

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dutch road cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten came back from this dramatic Rio Olympic crash to win her first world title on Tuesday, taking the time trial in Bergen, Norway.

“This one is really beautiful without the crash in Rio, but this makes the story really, really special,” an emotional van Vleuten said. “Actually, I still cannot believe it. … This season I’m surprising myself what I can do. To be world champion in the time trial, I never thought I’d be able of this.”

Van Vleuten, 34, covered the 13-mile course in 28 minutes, 50.35 seconds, topping countrywoman Anna ven der Breggen by 12 seconds.

Australian Katrin Garfoot took bronze, 19.02 seconds ahead of Chloe Dygert, a U.S. Olympic silver medalist in track cycling. American Amber Neben, the defending champion, was 11th.

Full results are here.

In Rio, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped over into a ditch during the road race. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course.

She was eventually hospitalized in intensive care.

Van der Breggen went on to win the Olympic title.

Van Vleuten wasn’t out long. She raced at last October’s world championships, placing a career-high fifth in the time trial. She then won La Course in France, a two-day race, in July.

“To be an athlete is to have really ups and downs,” van Vleuten said Tuesday. “Sometimes really downs, but the downs make the ups even more beautiful, I think.”

Van Vleuten’s first celebratory act Tuesday was to climb past two barriers and into her mother’s arms.

“Last year my mum watched the Rio race on television, it was her birthday and she was with lots of my family, so it was a really hard day for her,” Van Vleuten said in a news conference, according to Cyclingnews.com. “My father died in 2008, and so it was really special to have her here and celebrate the good things of cycling together. We’ve dealt with bad things together in the past, so it’s important to be really happy and proud to celebrate and to also remember my father.”

The world championships continue Wednesday with the men’s time trial at 7 a.m. ET on the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: World Road Cycling Championships broadcast schedule