‘Dumb luck’: Marcel Hirscher wins gold, Ted Ligety bronze in crazy super combined

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An unconfident Marcel Hirscher wasn’t sure he wanted to start the World Championships super combined. Ted Ligety didn’t think he would win a medal after he finished skiing.

But in an unusual sequence of events, Hirscher captured gold and Ligety bronze in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday.

In the super combined, all skiers take one downhill run. Then, the top 30 from the downhill go in reverse order in the slalom, followed by everybody ranked 31st and lower from the downhill. Skiers are then ranked by their combined times from the downhill and slalom.

Hirscher, a World slalom champion who rarely races downhill, was 31st-fastest in the morning downhill run Sunday. His chances to come back from a 3.16-second deficit would have been zero if not for one thing.

The Czech Republic’s Ondrej Bank spectacularly crashed near the end of his downhill run and was disqualified, even though he was reportedly 25th-fastest when he slid across the finish line.

The absence of Bank, who suffered a concussion, allowed Hirscher to move from 31st to 30th and, more importantly, from 31st in the slalom start order to first in the slalom start order. Starting earlier in slalom is an advantage — and a bigger edge given warm conditions like on Sunday.

“If Ondrej Bank hadn’t straddled the last gate, [Hirscher] would’ve started 31st and had no chance,” said Ligety, who was 29th in the downhill, one spot ahead of Hirscher, and started second in the slalom, one spot after Hirscher.

Hirscher ended up beating Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud by .19 in combined time for gold. Jansrud was fastest in the downhill, so he had to start 30th with beat-up snow from the 29 racers who went before him. Ligety was .30 behind for bronze. (full results here)

Hirscher won his second career World Championships individual gold medal and could win two more gold medals in the giant slalom and slalom over the next seven days. The 25-year-old Austrian currently leads the World Cup overall standings and is trying to become the first man to win four straight World Cup overall titles.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to start in the super combined, because my downhill training, especially in the first and the second run, were really bad, around five seconds behind the leader,” Hirscher said on NBC. “Today, I changed a bit of my setup, new boots, new skis, and it worked really well. I’m super lucky that it is warm, and it was definitely not easy to ski today with bib No. 30 [as Jansrud did], so no one expected that I was going to win the gold medal today.”

Ligety won his sixth career World Championships medal, matching Lindsey Vonn for the most by an American. The two-time Olympic champion took Worlds gold in this event in 2013.

“After the downhill run I thought there was no possibility of being anywhere close to a medal,” Ligety said. “It was just dumb luck.”

Ligety, too, benefited from starting early. He estimated that starting first or second versus starting 30th in the slalom was around a three-second advantage.

“If I was a half-second faster in the downhill, I wouldn’t have been able to get a medal at all,” Ligety said. “That’s how big of a difference I thought running early was. It was a brilliant strategy to be that slow, I guess.”

Here’s Ligety’s slalom run:

Hirscher skied his slalom run in 49.93 seconds, the only skier to go sub-50. Ligety went right after Hirscher and had the second-fastest slalom time in the field, 50.36.

Jansrud, who owns three Olympic medals, bagged his first World Championships medal. He finished fourth in the super-G and 15th in the downhill last week after coming in as a favorite to make the podium in both events.

The World Championships continue with the women’s super combined, including Vonn, on Monday.

World Championships broadcast schedule

Here’s Bank’s crash:

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.”

MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

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