Ashley Wagner

Ashley Wagner takes on critics, Russians, believes best is yet to come

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Ashley Wagner is aware of her critics. Many say she is past her prime at age 23 and should hang up her skates.

“Anybody who looks down upon some old gal going after her dreams, I have many things to say to them,” Wagner said, “but I will just say watch me do it.”

Wagner, who finished seventh at the Olympics and at March’s World Championships, plans to compete through the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics. She could become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles figure skater since 1928, according to sports-reference.com.

“So what, I’m going to be 26 at the next Olympics,” she said. “That’s not old. I will probably, for myself, be in my physical prime around then.”

For the second straight year, Wagner is the only U.S. singles skater competing in the Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest international event this season behind the World Championships. She will perform in Barcelona next week.

It’s her third straight trip and fourth overall to the event that invites the top six skaters per discipline over the six-event Grand Prix series. Nine-time U.S. champion Michelle Kwan is the only U.S. woman to make more Grand Prix Finals than Wagner in the event’s two-decade history.

Kwan won her last U.S. title at 24. Wagner, who turns 24 in May, believes she will not only be physically stronger in the years to come but also will mature mentally.

“I’m going to be a late bloomer,” she said, pointing to Italian Carolina Kostner, who won Olympic and World Championships bronze medals last season at age 27.

Wagner hopes to hush the critics, who had reason to grow louder last winter.

Wagner fell from fourth and fifth at the 2012 and 2013 World Championships to seventh in Sochi and seventh again at 2014 Worlds in March (where neither the Olympic gold or silver medalist competed).

Back in January, she relinquished her U.S. Championship to Gracie Gold, who is four years younger. She was also beaten there by Polina Edmunds, who is seven years younger. Wagner finished fourth at nationals but still was selected for the three-woman U.S. Olympic team because of her unrivaled record among U.S. women’s skaters the previous two seasons.

She received heavy criticism and said in January she would give up social media “cold turkey” during the Olympics, though she did end up posting from Sochi.

She has been the most consistent U.S. women’s skater this season, placing second and third in her two Grand Prix series events. Certainly, she could retake the U.S. Championship in January from Gold, who will miss the Grand Prix Final with a small stress fracture but expects to be fine for nationals.

One thing hasn’t changed this season. Wagner still sees critics tag her with negative comments.

“Every now and then, I will choose a person on Twitter to kind of respond to, to send a warning to the rest of the people that I will stand up for myself,” said Wagner, who retweeted this tweet. “I will shame them if they are ridiculously rude to me.”

Wagner will face a different type of competition next week than she remembered from her first Grand Prix Final in 2009.

Four of her five competitors are Russians who are 17 and younger. Wagner said she needed to “tip-toe” through an answer when asked to compare this era and that of South Korean Yuna Kim and Japanese Mao Asada a few years ago.

“Mao and Yuna Kim, to me, they were something absolutely incredible, and they had this total package,” she said. “They had this individual persona. I think that the difference between that era and the one that we’re in right now is all of these Russian girls right now, who knows, maybe as time goes on they’ll start to stand out individually a bit more, but everyone kind of sees them as one big chunk of Russian girls skating. Mao and Yuna really were able to create their own individual legacy. I think that’s kind of the difference between where we are now and back then.”

Wagner applauds the Russians’ talent and work ethic. She even envies them. She’ll have to overcome them to win her first Grand Prix Final title in her fourth try.

“An entire country gives them apartments and perfect ice time, and everything is really worked out perfectly for them,” she said. “It would be nice to live a day in the Russians’ shoes.”

Evan Lysacek finds challenges away from skating in new life

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Wagner is the only U.S. singles skater to make the either of the last two Grand Prix Finals. Gold qualified this year but withdrew with a foot injury.

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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