Chris Froome
AP

Chris Froome likes 2016 Tour de France route

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PARIS (AP) — Chris Froome likes his chances of defending his Tour de France title on a route that plays to his all-around riding skills.

Two individual time trials and 28 tough climbs will be on the schedule in July, organizers announced Tuesday.

“It suits me better than this year’s Tour did,” Froome said.

The 3,519-kilometer (2,186-mile) trek will scale the Pyrenees before the Alps, just as the Tour did this year, again going counter-clockwise around France. That breaks with tradition, because generally the Tour alternates between clockwise and counter-clockwise.

Froome, who also won in 2013, is strong both on climbs and in individual time trials, making him an early favorite for 2016.

“It’s not any certain stage or discipline that’s going to decide next year’s Tour. It’s a combination of everything. It’s going to take a very well-rounded rider to win,” the Team Sky rider said. “It’s going to test every aspect of cycling.”

An ascent of Mont Ventoux in Provence on Bastille Day on July 14 will test the best climbers. Froome was the stage winner when the Tour last scaled its barren, 1,909-meter (6,263-foot) peak in 2013 and is eyeing that stage again for another victory next year.

The Mont-Saint-Michel, a World Heritage Benedictine abbey perched on a rock off the Normandy coast, will provide a picture-postcard start for the race. The first stage ends at Utah Beach, where Allied troops landed on D-Day in 1944. Sprinters will vie for the stage victory there.

A first taste of mountains will be on Stage 5, in the Massif Central. From there, there will be little respite on the next 15 stages before the last ride into Paris.

“It’s so hard,” sprinter Mark Cavendish said. “For 21 days, it’s going to be full gas.”

The two time trials are one week apart, totaling 54 kilometers (34 miles).

“My time trialing recently hasn’t been great so it’s something I’m going to have to work hard on,” said Froome, the time-trial bronze medalist for Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.

The first of those races against the clock, on Stage 13 a day after the Ventoux ascent, combines two short climbs, long flats and a tricky descent over 37 kilometers (23 miles).

Riders hoping to win time-trial gold the following month at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be able to use that tough course to gauge their form.

“It’s a good test,” said Tony Martin, the time-trial silver medalist in London.

After the Pyrenees, where the Tour will dip into Spain and Andorra, the Alps will decide the final placings before the July 24 finish in Paris. For three days, the Tour will skirt around Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest peak.

“It’s going to be extraordinary,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme said.

MORE CYCLING: Tour runner-up eyes first Olympics in 2016

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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