Chris Froome left with few challengers at Tour de France

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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.

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“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.”

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MORE: 10 Tour de France riders to watch

Usain Bolt says he will work out for Borussia Dortmund on Thursday

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Usain Bolt said he will work out for German soccer club Borussia Dortmund on Thursday. At the very least, it will aid in Bolt’s preparation for a June 10 charity match.

Bolt confirmed the date of the training in an Italian TV interview on Wednesday in Basel, Switzerland, after he kicked the ball around with retired soccer stars in front of Diego Maradona and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.

“We’re going there to be serious,” Bolt said on Jamaican TV two weeks ago of his trip to Germany. “I want to go there to test my skills.”

Bolt said two weeks ago that his two-day trial will include a public session and a more serious private session. After Bolt’s comments Wednesday, Dortmund said a session open to media will be Friday.

Bolt recently trained three days a week with one of the club’s in Jamaica’s top domestic league, Harbour View.

“I’ve done enough to keep a semblance of fitness,” said Bolt, who tore his left hamstring in the final race of his career at the world championships on Aug. 12.

Bolt added that he could easily make any team in Jamaica’s top division, but that he needs more time to reach a fitness level required to play serious minutes.

Bolt previously said he could easily make Jamaica’s national team, according to Reuters.

Bolt has dreamed of playing for his favorite club, Manchester United.

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Carolina Kostner tops Alina Zagitova in world champs short program

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Italian Carolina Kostner is the surprise leader after the short program at figure skating worlds, topping a woman half her age, Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, by .76 of a point in Milan on Wednesday.

Kostner, 31, tallied a personal-best 80.27 as she eyes a second world title to join her 2012 crown. Kostner earned the 2014 Olympic bronze medal and was fifth in PyeongChang as the oldest woman in the field by more than six years.

She can become the oldest women’s world champion by more than four years if she hangs on in Friday’s free skate, according to reports when Maria Butyrskaya won at age 26 in 1999.

“If I think back 15 years ago, when I started skating internationally, nobody in Italy followed figure skating,” said Kostner, who could retire after worlds. “Now, there’s a venue full of people sharing this passion with me.”

Zagitova, 15 and trying to become the youngest world champion since Tara Lipinski in 1997, struggled on the back end of her triple-triple jump combination. Her score of 79.51 was 3.41 points fewer than her world record at the Olympics.

“I felt, somehow, tight in my body,” Zagitova said through a translator. “I think it was nerves, but I don’t know why.

“I was more nervous here than at the Olympic Games.”

Zagitova, undefeated in her first senior international season, entered as the clear favorite with Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrawing from the event due to a right foot injury.

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara and Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond are in third and fourth, reversing their final placements from the Olympics. The U.S. women are in seventh (Bradie Tennell), ninth (Mirai Nagasu) and 17th place (Mariah Bell).

Full results are here.

The top two U.S. women’s results must add up to no more than 13 (sixth and seventh, for example), or they will be dropped to two spots at the 2019 World Championships. The last time the U.S. had fewer than the maximum three spots at an Olympics or worlds was 2013.

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Tennell, the 20-year-old U.S. champion who led the Americans at the Olympics in ninth, swung her fist after a clean short that scored 68.76 points. She was .18 off her personal best from the Olympic team event.

“This is my first world championships, so to go out there and put out a program like that, I’m very proud of myself,” Tennell said, according to U.S. Figure Skating.

Nagasu, who was 10th at the Olympics, performed a double Axel rather than the triple she landed in the Olympic team event. She also had her triple-triple combination downgraded to a triple-double.

Bell, the second alternate who made the team after Olympian Karen Chen withdrew and Ashley Wagner passed, struggled on her opening combination, only able to tack on a single jump.

Later Wednesday, Olympic pairs’ champions Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot topped the short program with a personal best.

Key Free Skate Start Times (Friday ET)
Mariah Bell (USA) — 2:32 p.m.
Bradie Tennell (USA) — 4:05 p.m.
Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 4:12 p.m.
Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 4:36 p.m.
Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 5 p.m.
Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 5:08 p.m.
Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 5:16 p.m.

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