Chris Froome
AP

Chris Froome likes 2016 Tour de France route

Leave a comment

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

Canadian ice dancers overcome hair-raising wardrobe malfunction

Piper Gilles, Paul Poirier
Screengrab
Leave a comment

Ice dancer Piper Gilles‘ hair got caught in partner Paul Poirier‘s costume during the Canadian Championships rhythm dance, but the couple still posted the top score in Mississauga, Ontario, on Friday.

As they spun together, Gilles’ hair appeared to catch on one of Poirier’s shirt buttons. It stayed that way for about five seconds as the couple nearly came to a stop before Poirier untangled it. What was Gilles thinking?

“Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap,” she said later. “It’s probably more swear words to that, but crap at that moment.

“It was like one of those pure panic moments, like, what do I do? Do we stop? Do we keep going? Paul’s like, just keep moving.”

Gilles and Poirier scored 88.86 points, taking an 11.6-point lead into the free dance.

The couple eyes their first national title after finishing second or third seven times in the last eight years behind Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

Gilles and Poirier rank fifth in the world this season.

The panicky moment Friday was reminiscent of the PyeongChang Olympics, where French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis‘ dress strap broke, exposing her breast. Papadakis and partner Guillaume Cizeron took silver and have been undefeated since.

MORE: Figure skating season TV schedule

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Allison Schmitt opens 2020 in fast form, bidding to join U.S. Olympic legends

Leave a comment

Allison Schmitt, after failing to qualify for world championships teams, revealing a battle with depression and taking nearly two years off competition post-Rio, has a chance to swim at her fourth Olympics this summer. And to do it in an individual event for the first time since 2012.

Schmitt won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.01 at the Tyr Pro Swim Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday night.

The time would have ranked second among Americans in 2019 behind Katie Ledecky. Ledecky is not swimming in Knoxville, but the 2012 Olympic champion and American record holder Schmitt beat Simone Manuel by 1.24 seconds.

“Wish I could say I was tapered, would make it feel a lot easier,” Schmitt said on NBCSN. “Getting better every time I jump in the water and swim in finals.”

Schmitt’s time marked her fastest outside of a major summer meet since the 2012 London Games. She’s bidding to become the third U.S. woman in her 30s to swim an individual event at an Olympics, joining 12-time medalists Dara Torres (who swam in her 40s) and Jenny Thompson.

Full Knoxville results are here. Broadcast coverage of the meet continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Swimmers are preparing for June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event qualify for the Tokyo Games, plus extra 100m and 200m free swimmers for relays.

In other events Friday, 18-year-old Carson Foster took the men’s 200m free in 1:47.74, beating the U.S.’ top 400m freestyler, Zane Grothe, by 1.33 seconds.

Foster, younger than any U.S. Olympic male swimmer since a group including Michael Phelps in 2000, is better known for his individual medleys. But the 200m free offers up to six Olympic spots when including the 4x200m free relay.

“Any event where there’s more spots on the line this summer is an event I want to train for,” said Foster, who ranked outside the top 10 in the U.S. in the 200m free in 2019 and beat a field Friday that included none of the six fastest.

Annie Lazor won the 100m breaststroke in 1:06.68, a time congruent with her No. 2 ranking in the U.S. last year behind Olympic champion and world-record holder Lilly King. King, who trains with Lazor, is not competing in Knoxville.

In the 100m butterfly, 29-year-old Amanda Kendall upset top-ranked American Kelsi Dahlia in 57.65 seconds. Regan Smith, the fastest backstroker in history, was second in a personal-best 57.86, followed by Dahlia.

MORE: Australian swim star issues plea after hometown hit by fires

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!