Ashley Wagner

Ashley Wagner has Worlds medal in sight, but aims higher

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If this is the year the U.S. women end their medal drought, Ashley Wagner is the favored skater to make the podium at the World Championships next week.

“I need to prove now more than ever that I belong,” Wagner said Monday, pausing before finishing her thought, “and I think Nationals definitely did that for me.”

Wagner, 23, is a military brat who takes pleasure in continuing to skate after her critics called her to step aside for the next generation of teens to pass her by.

Her best career performances came this season, rallying for bronze at the Grand Prix Final in December and reclaiming the U.S. title at Nationals in January, shattering records for her third crown.

Wagner now leads an American trio into the World Championships in Shanghai, looking to keep dominant Russia from a one-two-three sweep and to capture the first U.S. women’s medal since 2006.

How will she pull that off?

“I need to get all the levels on my spins and my footwork and have a clean-edge [triple] Lutz,” Wagner said. “I know that it’s going to be a little bit more difficult at Worlds because it’s going to be compared against many, many flawless triple Lutzes. So I’m going need to make sure that that outside edge is very clear. And the triple-triple [jump] combination, which I think at the past couple competitions I’ve shown I’m really capable of doing it. Now I just really need to consistently keep on delivering it.”

The mountain is high to overtake the two best Russians — Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Yelena Radionova. Wagner landed seven triple jumps in a clean free skate at the Grand Prix Final and still scored more than five points fewer than Tuktamysheva and Radionova.

But the bronze medal may be up for grabs, as it was at the Grand Prix Final.

The third Russian, Anna Pogorilaya, fell in both of her Grand Prix Final programs and then finished more than 17 points behind Tuktamysheva and Radionova at the European Championships in January.

Nobody in the women’s field next week comes in already owning an Olympic or World Championships individual medal.

Wagner counters the Russians with experience they can’t match. This will be her fifth World Championships appearance.

“I can offer a level of emotional connection to my performances,” Wagner said. “I’ve lived through it all.”

Wagner will also be competing against countrywomen Gracie Gold, the top American last year in the Olympic season, and Polina Edmunds, coming off a breakthrough victory at the Four Continents Championship in February.

Gracie Gold goes into Worlds after turbulent season

They are the same three women who finished fifth (Gold), seventh (Wagner) and eighth (Edmunds) at the 2014 World Championships, one month after they made up the U.S. team in Sochi.

It’s a rare window of consistency for the U.S., which fell behind Japan and then Russia in the last decade. It’s cyclical, Wagner said.

“It’s kind of like how training hubs change as years go by,” Wagner said. “Colorado Springs is a training hub. Then Boston is a training hub. It’s just a natural process for different countries to be stronger at different times. Japan was reigning with Mao Asada for a long time. Right now, they’re building up their junior ladies field. … Russia had a drought for a very long time. Now look at them. … I know that for the U.S. it’s uncommon to have such a long drought, but I think that we now finally have a very talented field.”

Russia had zero women in the top seven at the 2010 Olympics. Japan, with Asada taking the year off and perhaps done for good, is not expected to factor into the medals next week.

In January 2014, Wagner was in tears after she finished fourth at the U.S. Championships but was picked for the Olympic team over third-place Mirai Nagasu due to her stronger recent résumé.

In February 2014, she became best known at the Olympics for an Internet meme.

Now, Wagner gushes about her sport.

“I am madly in love with skating,” she said. “As long as I can physically and mentally push through this sport, I’ll be around.”

She hopes that a World Championships medal will not be the cherry on top of her career. She wants more.

“The whole reason I’m in this sport is to get that Olympic medal,” said Wagner, who does own a Sochi team event bronze but was seventh individually. “[If I win a Worlds medal] I think I would start thinking ahead, start planning to figure out how I would try to take over the world.”

Polina Edmunds hopes reputation doesn’t impact Worlds

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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