Lindsey Vonn, MIkaela Shiffrin
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Women’s Alpine skiing season preview

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The Alpine skiing season figures to be a three-woman show, following a slew of retirements and one star’s announced break from the sport.

Of the reigning Olympic, World and World Cup champions across all five disciplines, three total skiers are active this year — Anna FenningerLindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin.

The season starts with a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Saturday (full schedule here).

Co-Olympic downhill champion Dominique Gisin retired after last season, as did three-time Olympic medalist Nicole HospTina Maze, who earned two gold medals at the 2014 Olympics and at the 2015 World Championships, is sitting out this season and may never return.

This is the only season in the four-year cycle that doesn’t have a World Championships or Olympics, so the dangling carrot is the World Cup overall title — awarded to the skier who accumulates the most points from World Cup season results across all disciplines from October through March.

Fenninger (1,553), Vonn (1,087) and Shiffrin (1,036) are the only returning skiers who tallied more than 1,000 points last season. The next-best returning skier is Swedish slalom specialist Frida Hansdotter, who had 679 points.

That drop-off is the main reason why this season’s World Cup overall chase figures to be fought among three women.

Fenninger, a 26-year-old known for doing a photo shoot with live cheetahs, aims to join Vonn as the only women since 1992 to win three straight World Cup overall titles.

Fenninger is nearly a dominant all-around skier, notching at least three World Cup podium finishes each in downhill, super-G and giant slalom last season, plus winning the only super combined. She rarely races slalom.

Fenninger, who was set back slightly by a knee injury in preseason training, is coming off prevailing in one of the tightest World Cup overall races ever last season. She entered the season’s final race trailing Maze by 18 points, won the finale, and edged Maze by 22 points for the overall title.

Vonn, who turned 31 on Sunday, has said her goal this season is to earn a fifth World Cup overall title. She hasn’t taken the crown since 2012, one year before the first of her two major knee surgeries that kept her from defending her Olympic downhill title in Sochi.

For Vonn to close last year’s gap on Fenninger, she likely must tally significant points in the giant slalom. And she must overcome another injury, fracturing an ankle in August training in New Zealand. Vonn reportedly said Monday that she is “more likely than not” to skip Soelden.

Vonn impressed in her comeback last season, winning eight races and breaking the women’s World Cup career wins record, but all the victories were in downhill and super-G.

Vonn made three total starts in combineds and giant slaloms, finishing one of them, the World Cup finale giant slalom, where she was fifth. That earned Vonn 45 total World Cup points in those disciplines.

In contrast, Fenninger gained 642 points in giant slalom and super combined en route to finishing 466 points clear of Vonn in the final overall standings. There’s your difference.

Vonn can become the oldest women’s World Cup overall champion ever this season. She can also move within one overall title of the record six held by retired Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll.

Vonn can also grab her eighth downhill season title, which would tie the record for most titles in one discipline. That mark is held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

Stenmark also holds the overall World Cup career wins record of 86. Vonn is 19 wins shy of that. If Vonn continues on the pace she set last season, she will reach 86 during the 2018 Olympic season, when she hopes to become the oldest women’s Alpine skiing Olympic medalist ever.

Then there’s Shiffrin, who in 2014 became the youngest Olympic slalom champion. The 20-year-old who races with the letters ABFTTB on the back of her helmet (Always Be Faster Than The Boys) hopes to test herself against the world’s fastest women for the first time this season.

Like Vonn, Shiffrin must expand her repertoire to challenge Fenninger for the World Cup overall title.

Shiffrin has won every slalom title the last three seasons and is improving in giant slalom, but she’s never raced a World Cup downhill, super-G or combined. She can’t possibly contend with Fenninger of the last two seasons with zero points in three of the five World Cup disciplines.

Shiffrin knows that and, for the second straight year, hopes to make her World Cup super-G debut. Last season’s plan was scrapped after a slow start to her season in slalom.

Shiffrin, while famous for saying at the Sochi Olympics that she dreamed of winning five gold medals in 2018, has more realistically said she doesn’t want to contest the speed events of super-G and, later, downhill if the additions could jeopardize her prowess in the technical events of slalom and giant slalom.

Shiffrin will be heavily favored to earn a fourth straight World Cup slalom season title, in part because two of the four women closest to her in last year’s standings aren’t competing this season. The other two, Hansdotter and Czech Sarka Strachova, turn 30 and 31, respectively, this year.

Shiffrin’s progression in the giant slalom is just as notable as her continued dominance in the slalom. In GS, she’s risen in the World Cup standings from 49th to 19th to seventh to third the last four seasons.

No woman has captured both the giant slalom and slalom World Cup season titles since Swede Anja Pärson in 2004.

If Shiffrin wins the World Cup overall title, she would be the youngest to do so since Janica Kostelic in 2001.

MORE ALPINE SKIING: Bode Miller to skip season, not ruling out 2018 Olympics

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 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 that same 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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