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USOC returns to Boston for Road to Rio event

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BOSTON (AP) — More than two months after Boston’s bid for the 2024 Olympics collapsed under the weight of fierce public opposition, the United States Olympic Committee is returning to the city with a much different goal in mind.

The organization is sending several athletes and former Olympians to Boston this weekend as part of its Road to Rio Tour, an effort to drum up support and enthusiasm for Team USA as the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro draw closer. The visit is timed to coincide with the Head of the Charles Regatta, one of the world’s premier rowing events that annually attracts some 400,000 spectators to the banks of the Charles River.

The stop was planned well before the USOC dropped Boston in July as the U.S. bid city for the 2024 Games, USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said, and isn’t meant as a fence-mending attempt in a region where emotions are still raw after months of sometimes bitter debate.

“I do think the USOC really trashed the Olympic brand in Massachusetts and in Boston,” said Evan Falchuk, a former candidate for governor who was leading the drive for a ballot question that would have barred the state from using public funds in support of the 2024 games, had the bid gone forward.

Falchuk and other critics contended that the USOC forced Boston 2024, the private group spearheading Boston’s Olympic bid, to shield details of its bid from the public and later pressured city officials to sign an agreement that could have left taxpayers holding the bag for future cost overruns.

With support for the bid lagging in public opinion polls and Mayor Martin Walsh ultimately refusing to sign the guarantee, the USOC severed ties with Boston and later pinned America’s hopes for 2024 on Los Angeles. In August, a report from a state-funded consultant suggested the Boston organizing group underestimated by nearly $1 billion the costs of hosting the games.

Nastia Liukin, the individual all-around gymnastics champion in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is among eight U.S. athletes coming to Boston as part of the tour.

While the anger surrounding the demise of the bid was “unfortunate,” Liukin said, she expects nothing but strong support for the athletes during the weekend promotion.

“It’s about Rio and the road to Rio,” said Liukin, who is engaged to former Boston College hockey player Matt Lombardi and believes fans can easily separate their admiration for U.S. athletes from any sour feelings over the botched bid.

Other tour participants include Ryan Lochte, an 11-time Olympic medalist in swimming; Caryn Davies, a three-time medalist in rowing; and Lolo Jones, a three-time track and field Olympian.

Boston is the third venue on the tour in 2015 after earlier visits to Philadelphia and San Diego. Six stops are scheduled for next year, including the final one in Los Angeles in August.

Boston was selected in part because it is a “great sports city” with a long history of producing and backing Olympians, said Sandusky.

“This isn’t about bidding for the Olympics but supporting Team USA,” he said, adding that the USOC enjoyed a strong working relationship with Boston officials though “ultimately it didn’t work out.”

Another local connection: The lead sponsor for the Road to Rio tour is Boston-headquartered insurance giant Liberty Mutual.

“People love the athletes,” agreed Falchuk, who ran for governor under the United Independent Party banner in 2014. But he believes an apology should come from bid organizers and politicians he contends waited too long to question the financial underpinnings.

“You would like to see someone say, ‘I’m sorry we did this,” but everyone says ‘let’s pretend this didn’t happen,’” he said.

MORE: 2024 Olympics coverage

Anna van der Breggen is first cyclist to sweep road world titles in 25 years

Anna van der Breggen
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Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen added the road race crown to her time trial victory at the world road cycling championships, becoming the second rider in history to win both events at the same edition.

“This is, for me, pretty good so far,” she said.

Van der Breggen, the Rio Olympic road race champion, won after a solo attack with more than 25 miles left of an 89-mile course in Imola, Italy, on Saturday.

She prevailed after more than four hours of racing by 80 seconds over countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, the 2019 champion. Van Vleuten raced nine days after breaking her left wrist in a Giro Rosa crash.

Italian Elisa Longo Borghini took bronze in the same time as van Vleuten after losing a photo-finish sprint. Lauren Stephens was the top American in 11th.

Full results are here.

The race lacked American standout Chloé Dygert, who crashed out of the time trial while leading on Thursday and required leg surgery.

Van der Breggen joined Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo as the only male or female cyclists to sweep the time trial and road race at a single worlds. Longo did so in 1995 at age 36.

Van der Breggen, 30, said in May that she will retire after the 2021 Olympic season.

It will be the end of one of the great cycling careers. She is now a three-time world champion and nine-time world medalist to go along with her road race gold and time trial bronze in her Olympic debut in Rio.

Worlds conclude Sunday with the men’s road race. A TV and stream schedule is here.

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MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes

2020 French Open TV, live stream schedule

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Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams can each tie Grand Slam singles titles records at the French Open, with daily live coverage among NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel.

NBC coverage starts Sunday with first-round action at Roland Garros, its 38th straight year covering the event. Tennis Channel airs the majority of weekday coverage. Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service, has middle weekend broadcasts.

All NBC TV coverage alo streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Nadal is the primary men’s storyline, favored to tie Roger Federer‘s male record of 20 major titles and extend his own record of 12 French Open crowns. Federer is absent after knee operations earlier this year.

The Spaniard’s primary competition is top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 French Open champion whose only defeat in 2020 was a U.S. Open default for hitting a ball that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Williams bids again to match the overall Grand Slam singles mark of 24 held by Australian Margaret Court. Williams, a three-time French Open champion, lost in the third and fourth round the last two years and is coming off a U.S. Open semifinal exit.

The women’s field is led by 2018 champion Simona Halep but lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

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French Open TV Schedule

Date Time (ET) Network Round
Sunday, Sept. 27 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC
Monday, Sept. 28 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Tuesday, Sept. 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, Sept. 30 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, Oct. 1 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, Oct. 2 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, Oct. 3 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Sunday, Oct. 4 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Monday, Oct. 5 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Tuesday, Oct. 6 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Oct. 7 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Thursday, Oct. 8 5 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Friday, Oct. 9 5 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Saturday, Oct. 10 9 a.m. NBC Women’s Final
Sunday, Oct. 11 9 a.m. NBC Men’s Final