Jamaica women's bobsled

Jamaica (re)starts women’s bobsled team

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A Jamaican women’s bobsled team competed in an international race for what’s believed to be the first time in more than a decade on Thursday.

Driver KayMarie Jones and brakewoman Salcia Slack finished last out of 13 sleds that took two runs in a North American Cup event in Park City, Utah. They were 9.9 seconds behind the winner.

The “Cool Runnings” island nation diversified its bobsled program after sending a two-man team to the Sochi Olympics, a dozen years after its last Olympic men’s bobsled appearance and 26 years after its debut in Calgary.

Women’s bobsledders were recruited this summer by new head coach and technical director Todd Hays, a two-time U.S. Olympian. Hays hopes to field the first Jamaican Olympic women’s bobsled team at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“There’s no better challenge in the sport of bobsled than Jamaica with the athleticism that’s on the island,” said Hays, who led U.S. women’s bobsled from 2011 through the Sochi Olympics. “I hope I can round up enough talent to make a run at it.”

Two Jamaican women’s drivers took training runs in Park City last week, Jones and NaTalia Stokes. Stokes is the daughter of original Jamaican Olympic bobsled team member Chris Stokes. Chris Stokes was depicted by Doug E. Doug in the Disney film “Cool Runnings.”

NaTalia Stokes, who picked up bobsled last winter, before Hays was hired, opted not to race in Park City on Thursday to focus on school, Hays said.

Chris Stokes forecasted his daughter’s bobsled career in 2002, when NaTalia was 6 years old.

“Talia likes to wear my helmet,” he said, according to a Los Angeles Times story from 12 years ago. “Now that there’s women’s bobsled [debuting in the Olympics in 2002], I’d like to get a Jamaican women’s team together, too. Maybe we can have two generations of Stokes bobsledders.”

Jones, Slack and Stokes’ push athlete, Audra Segree, all have track and field backgrounds. Slack finished fifth in the heptathlon at the Commonwealth Games in July, when she was first contacted by Hays via Facebook.

Jones, 24, said she had never seen a bobsled, outside of in pictures or on video, until two weeks ago. But she was inspired by watching “Cool Runnings” as a girl.

“Ever since the movie I’ve wanted to drive,” Jones said. “It’s not too hard.”

No Jamaican women have competed in international bobsled since at least 2004, according to the International Bobsled Federation (FIBT).

The last Jamaican women’s bobsled team may have been the one that dissolved shortly before the 2002 Olympics.

Driver Porscha Morgan crashed in the first World Cup race of the 2001-02 season in Winterberg, Germany, and due to injury and lack of money, never competed again.

Morgan, reached by phone at her Norway home this week, said Jamaican officials were so sure she was going to make it to the 2002 Olympics that she had already been selected as the Opening Ceremony flag bearer, before her Winterberg crash.

That said, Morgan ranked No. 26 in the World Cup season standings in the year before the Olympics. The 2002 Olympic field included 15 bobsleds.

Morgan first learned of the Jamaican bobsled re-emergence last season when she watched the Sochi Olympic two-man bobsled on her Norway TV. Jamaica finished 29th out of 30. The Jamaican driver at the Sochi Olympics, 46-year-old Winston Watts, said he doesn’t expect to compete this season but hasn’t retired.

Hays is coaching younger Jamaican men, though.

Morgan, who visits Jamaica once a year, said she remembered seeing NaTalia Stokes when Stokes was a baby.

“I thought that they had given up on a women’s bobsled team,” Morgan said when informed of the new Jamaican team. “I’m extremely proud.”

Morgan’s biggest victories were World Push Championship titles in 2000 (televised by Eurosport) and 2001.

She moved to Norway for bobsled training more than a decade ago, married and has lived there ever since.

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2020 Tour de France standings

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2020 Tour de France results for the yellow jersey, green jersey, white jersey and polka-dot jersey …

Overall (Yellow Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:05
2. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — +:59
3. Richie Porte (AUS) — +3:30
4. Mikel Landa (ESP) — +5:58
5. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — +6:47
7. Tom Dumoulin (NED) — +7:48
8. Rigberto Uran (COL) — +8:02
9. Adam Yates (GBR) — +9:25
10. Damiano Caruso (ITA) — +14:03
13. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — +25:53
15. Sepp Kuss (USA) — +42:20
17. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +1:03:07
29. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) — +1:59:54
36. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) — +2:19:11
DNF. Egan Bernal (COL)

Sprinters (Green Jersey)
1. Sam Bennett (IRL) — 380 points
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) — 284
3. Matteo Trentin (ITA) — 260
4. Bryan Coquard (FRA) — 181
5. Wout van Aert (BEL) — 174

Climbers (Polka-Dot Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 82 points
2. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — 74
3. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — 67
4. Marc Hirschi (SUI) — 62
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — 51

Young Rider (White Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:13
2. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
3. Valentin Madouas (FRA) — +1:42:43
4. Dani Martinez (COL) — +1:55:12
5. Lennard Kamna (GER) — +2:15:39

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TOUR DE FRANCE: TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage | Favorites, Predictions

Tadej Pogacar, Slovenia win Tour de France for the ages

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A Tour de France that almost didn’t happen ended up among the most exciting in the race’s 117-year history.

Tadej Pogacar, a 21-year-old Slovenian, rode into Paris on Sunday as the first man in more than 60 years to pedal in the yellow jersey for the first time on the final day of a Tour.

Let’s get the achievements out of the way: Pogacar is the first Slovenian to win the Tour, finishing with the other overall leaders behind stage winner Sam Bennett on the Champs-Elysees.

“Even if I would come second or last, it wouldn’t matter, it would be still nice to be here,” Pogacar said. “This is just the top of the top. I cannot describe this feeling with the words.”

He is the second-youngest winner in race history, after Henri Cornet in 1904. (Cornet won after the first four finishers were disqualified for unspecified cheating. The 19-year-old Frenchman rode 21 miles with a flat tire during the last stage after spectators reportedly threw nails on the road.)

Pogacar is the first man to win a Tour in his debut since Frenchman Laurent Fignon in 1983.

And he’s part of a historic one-two for Slovenia, a nation with the population of Houston.

Countryman Primoz Roglic, who wore the yellow jersey for nearly two weeks before ceding it after Saturday’s epic time trial, embraced Pogacar after a tearful defeat Saturday and again during Sunday’s stage.

Tasmanian Richie Porte, who moved from fourth place to third on Saturday, made his first Tour podium in his 10th start, a record according to ProCyclingStats.com. The age range on the Paris gloaming podium — more than 13 years — is reportedly the largest in Tour history.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

Three men on a Tour de France podium in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, each for the first time. Hasn’t been done since 2007, arguably the first Tour of a new era.

This Tour feels similarly guard-changing.

It barely got off, delayed two months by the coronavirus pandemic. Two days before the start, France’s prime minister said the virus was “gaining ground” in the nation and announced new “red zones” in the country, including parts of the Tour route.

Testing protocols meant that if any team had two members (cyclists or staff) test positive before the start or on either rest day, the whole team would be thrown out.

It never came to that. Yet the Tour finishes without 2019 champion, Colombian Egan Bernal, who last year became the first South American winner and, at the time, the youngest in more than 100 years.

Bernal abandoned last Wednesday after struggling in the mountains. His standings plummet signaled the end, at least for now, of the Ineos Grenadiers dynasty after five straight Tour titles dating to Chris Froome and the Team Sky days.

Jumbo-Visma became the new dominant team. The leader Roglic was ushered up climbs by several Jumbo men, including Sepp Kuss, the most promising American male cyclist in several years.

What a story Roglic was shaping up to be. A junior champion ski jumper, he was concussed in a training crash on the eve of what would have been his World Cup debut in 2007. Roglic never made it to the World Cup before quitting and taking up cycling years later.

As Roglic recovered from that spill in Planica, Pogacar had his sights on the Rog Ljubljana cycling club about 60 miles east. Little Tadej wanted to follow older brother Tilen into bike racing, but the club didn’t have a bike small enough.

The following spring, they found one. Pogacar was off and pedaling. In 2018, at age 18, he was offered a contract and then signed with UAE Team Emirates, his first World Tour team. The next year, Pogacar finished third at the Vuelta a Espana won by Roglic, becoming the youngest Grand Tour podium finisher since 1974.

Pogacar was initially slated to support another rider, Fabio Aru, for UAE Emirates at this year’s Tour. But his continued ascent propelled him into a team leader role.

Bernal and Roglic entered the Tour as co-favorites. After that, Pogacar was among a group of podium contenders but perhaps with the highest ceiling.

He stayed with the favorites for much of the Tour, save losing 81 seconds on the seventh stage, caught on the wrong end of a split after a crash in front of him.

“I’m not worried,” Pogacar said that day. “We will try another day.”

The next day, actually. He reeled back half of the lost time, putting him within striking distance of Roglic going into Saturday’s 22-mile time trial, the so-called “race of truth.”

Pogacar put in a performance in the time trial that reminded of Greg LeMond‘s epic finale in 1989. Pogacar won the stage by 81 seconds, greater than the margin separating second place from eighth place. Roglic was a disappointing fifth on the day, but he could have finished second and still lost all of his 57-second lead to Pogacar.

Pogacar turns 22 on Monday, but that might not add much to the celebration.

“Sorry,” he said, “but I’m not really a fan of my birthdays.”

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