Can Tour de France stars contend for medals at 2016 Olympics?

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It’s a conundrum every four years. Can the world’s top road cyclists endure the grueling, three-week Tour de France and come back not only to compete, but also contend for medals in the Olympics in the same summer?

Great Britain’s Chris Froome did just that three years ago.

He finished second to countryman Bradley Wiggins at the Tour and, six days after the ceremonial ride into Paris, joined Wiggins for the London Olympic road race.

Froome finished 109th in a failed team bid to have Mark Cavendish win Great Britain’s first home gold of the Games) but took bronze in the time trial four days later, behind gold medalist Wiggins.

Of course, Wiggins, Froome and Cavendish were all keen on the Tour-Olympic double because of the opportunity to compete in a home Olympics.

Since professional cyclists competed in the Olympics for the first time in 1996, the single reigning Tour de France winner not to compete in the Olympics was Lance Armstrong in 2004. During that Tour, Armstrong said he declined an invitation to compete in the Athens Olympics, where the time trial was three weeks after the Tour de France finish, to spend time with his children.

Will Froome ride the Tour and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016? The 2016 Tour will end July 24, and the Olympic Opening Ceremony is Aug. 5, adding a week more in between than in 2012.

There haven’t been many reports of Froome commenting on the Rio Games.

“One-day racing is always a bit of a lottery,” Froome said in 2014, according to Sky Sports. “I’m yet to get a big result in a one-day race, but if the right course came around and it was a really hilly circuit, it is something I could attack and go for. I’m quietly hoping that the Rio [2016] course would be a bit like that.”

The Rio Olympic road race and time trial courses, unveiled in December, do include climbs.

“Rio could very well develop into a really serious goal for me,” Froome said in 2013, according to Sky Sports. “It’s certainly something which would be a driving force in the back of my mind over the next few months.”

Nairo Quintana, Tour runner-up to Froome for the second time in three years, was not on the Colombian Olympic team as a 22-year-old in 2012, before his Grand Tour debut.

The 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali placed fourth this year. The 30-year-old Italian competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics with a top finish of 14th in the Beijing time trial.

“I’ve had a look and it seems to be a tough course, difficult and suitable to my characteristics,” Nibali said in December, according to Italian comments in Gazzetta dello Sport translated by Cyclingnews.com. “We will see, there is still a year and a half, but I’d like to be a leader.”

Spain’s Alberto Contador finished fifth in the Tour de France, failing in a bid to hold all three Grand Tour titles at once. He finished fourth in the 2008 Olympic time trial and missed the 2012 Olympics due to a doping ban.

“For next year I plan my season similar to that of 2014 — to enjoy the start of the season in top shape and to do the Tour and then the Olympics,” he said, according to a Cyclingnews.com article published Saturday. “I think that next year’s Olympics is hard and as such can adapt to my style, which doesn’t happen often.”

Wiggins, 35, has turned his focus back to track cycling, where he won the first six of his seven Olympic medals over four Games. If Wiggins makes it to Rio and wins one medal, he will become the most decorated British Olympian ever.

Cavendish, a sprinter with 26 Tour de France stage wins, cast doubt in January that he can compete at the Rio Olympics.

“I want to do the Olympics, but it’s hard,” the 30-year-old said, according to the BBC. “I can’t do it on the road, can’t do it in the time trial, and on the track there’s just no way to qualify without quitting the road.”

Lance Armstrong rides Tour de France route: ‘still some hurt feelings’

Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

Emily Sisson
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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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