Meb Keflezighi

Boston Marathon preview: Can Meb Keflezighi repeat?

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On paper, an American has a decent shot at the top three in the Boston Marathon on Monday. Perhaps even a win.

That’s Shalane Flanagan, who has the fifth-fastest personal best over 26.2 miles among the women’s field — behind four Ethiopians.

As for defending men’s champion Meb Keflezighi? He’s got the 13th-fastest personal best in the men’s field, which includes a former world record holder and the 2013 Boston Marathon winner.

He’s actually ranked higher on the men’s elite start list than last year (when he had the 15th-fastest personal best). Keflezighi is the only man in the top 15 born in the 1970s. He was born in 1975.

“Last year, nobody had good chances for me to win,” Keflezighi told reporters in Boston on Friday. “I think the chances are higher, at least according to others, this year than it was last year.”

Keflezighi will line up in Hopkinton on Monday morning with a chance to become the first U.S. man to repeat as Boston champ since Bill Rodgers won three straight from 1978-80 (Universal Sports, 8:30 a.m. ET, elite women at 9:32, elite men at 10).

The 2004 Olympic silver medalist has said his goal is to finish in the top three or run a personal best. He did both last year, though Boston times don’t count toward official personal bests due to the net downhill, point-to-point course.

Keflezighi can race with no pressure, given he’s already won this race and is not expected to prevail Monday.

But he also has factors working against him. He’s one year older, to turn 40 in May. And the top East Africans likely won’t let him get away with last year’s strategy, breaking around the eight-mile mark. They’ll stay with him this time.

So, Keflezighi will likely relinquish his title as reigning Boston champion on Monday.

Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa is favored to take the crown, given he’s finished first or second in every major race he’s finished the last two years, including winning Boston in 2013.

The very best Kenyans — world record holder Dennis Kimetto, No. 2 all time Emmanuel Mutai and New York City Marathon winner Wilson Kipsang — are not in the field.

“I don’t want the year to be over,” Keflezighi said with a laugh in Boston on Friday. “The greatest of all the marathons.”

An Ethiopian will also likely win the women’s race. The four fastest elites are from that nation, led by Mare Dibaba and Buzunesh Deba, runners-up to Kenyan Rita Jeptoo at the 2014 Chicago Marathon and 2014 Boston Marathon, respectively.

Jeptoo, the 2013 and 2014 Boston winner, is not going for a threepeat Monday because she tested positive for EPO in September and was suspended for two years.

Flanagan, 33 and the 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist, finished seventh in Boston last year in 2:22:02, which was 3:36 faster than her personal best going in.

Flanagan went another 48 seconds faster at the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 28, placing third. Now, her personal best is within 1:22 of the top-ranked woman in the field, Dibaba.

A U.S. woman hasn’t won Boston in 30 years.

“I feel really optimistic and excited about this year, just because we don’t have [Jeptoo] in the race,” Flanagan told media in Boston on Friday. “That makes me feel like the possibilities are open and endless for anyone. It’s not like decided before the race who’s going to win.”

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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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