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

Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

Sam Mikulak
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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

MORE: Simone Biles’ closest rival chases comeback

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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