Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman
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U.S. women’s gymnastics team faces familiar dilemma at World Championships

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Three U.S. women are vying for two spots in the World Gymnastics Championships all-around final in Glasgow, Scotland, which brings to mind a tearful episode from the London Olympics.

Rules dictate a maximum of two women per nation can compete in the all-around final at a Worlds or Olympics, so one of these three women will not be in the all-around final at Worlds in Glasgow on Thursday:

World champion Simone Biles
Olympic champion Gabby Douglas
Olympic fourth-place finisher Aly Raisman

The two highest scorers out of Biles, Douglas and Raisman in Saturday’s qualifying will advance to the all-around final.

Biles has won nine straight all-around competitions dating to 2013 and is favored to become the first woman to win three straight World all-around titles.

In three all-around competitions this year, Raisman holds a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over Douglas after both gymnasts took 2013 and 2014 off.

Another American, Maggie Nichols, beat Douglas and Raisman in the P&G Championships all-around in August but is not on the qualifying start list for the U.S. on uneven bars. If that holds, she won’t be eligible for the Worlds all-around final.

At the London Olympics, three U.S. women competed on every apparatus in qualifying — Douglas, Raisman and 2011 World all-around champion Jordyn Wieber. Wieber placed fourth overall in all-around qualifying in 2012, competing while injured and missing the all-around final because she was the No. 3 American in qualifying.

This will mark the fifth straight World Championships where the U.S. has had more than two women do the all-around in qualifying, so it’s an expected problem.

In 2011, Douglas was the third-ranked American in all-around qualifying — behind Wieber and Raisman — and missed the all-around final.

In 2013, McKayla Maroney was the third-ranked American in all-around qualifying — behind Biles and Kyla Ross — and missed the all-around final.

In 2014, MyKayla Skinner was the third-ranked American in all-around qualifying — behind Biles and Ross — and missed the all-around final.

This year’s U.S. team is so deep that Skinner, who finished in the top four in two events at the 2014 World Championships, was designated an alternate at this year’s Worlds and is not expected to compete in Glasgow.

Biles, Douglas, Raisman, Nichols, Brenna Dowell and Madison Kocian are slated to compete for the U.S. in qualifying on Saturday and the team final Tuesday. The U.S. seeks a third straight World team title and is a heavy favorite given it dominated in 2014, prevailing by 6.693 points without Douglas, Raisman and Nichols.

The U.S. women who qualify for the all-around final will be medal favorites, likely along with Romania’s Larisa Iordache. Iordache took silver behind Biles last year but did not perform well in qualifying Friday.

MORE GYMNASTICS: World Championships broadcast schedule

Simone Biles, her name sparkling, extends 6-year win streak

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Simone Biles has long stood out for her gymnastics, but on Saturday she competed with her last name sparkling in silver beads on her World Champions Centre leotard for the first time. The gym’s other athletes had “WCC” on the back.

Biles lived up to the billing, extending her six-year win streak to 19 straight all-arounds, capturing the U.S. Classic, a tune-up for next month’s U.S. Championships.

Biles, the four-time Rio Olympic champion, scored 60 points in Louisville at the meet where she made her comeback last year after nearly two years off from competition. She prevailed by a comfortable 2.1 points over Riley McCusker, her largest margin of victory of her four U.S. Classic titles.

“I’m very satisfied,” she said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I’m a little sad that I went out of bounds on floor [exercise], but overall I feel like there are improvements to be made.”

Full results are here.

Biles is prepping for nationals in Kansas City in three weeks, when she eyes a sixth U.S. all-around title to tie Clara Schroth Lomady‘s record from the AAU era in the 1940s and ’50s.

Then come the world championships in October in Stuttgart, Germany. Biles could win a fifth all-around to move one shy of Kohei Uchimura‘s record.

The world’s other top gymnasts may be her countrywomen.

Biles was outscored on balance beam on Saturday by 2018 World teammates Kara Eaker and McCusker and beaten on uneven bars by 2017 World all-around champion Morgan HurdSunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and McCusker. Biles swept all the gold medals at last year’s nationals.

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Geraint Thomas struggles; Julian Alaphilippe ups Tour de France lead

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LA MONGIE, France (AP) — When the team of Geraint Thomas was in its pomp at the Tour de France, a time trial followed by a big mountain stage would have been playgrounds for Sky — now in new colors as Ineos — to take cycling’s greatest race by the scruff of the neck and leave everyone else fighting for second place.

Not this year.

Thomas, the defending champion, cracked on Saturday on the Tour’s first encounter with a climb to above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), exposing unprecedented weaknesses in his team that has won six Tours in the past seven years.

The time trial on Friday and the climb up to the legendary Tourmalet pass on Saturday seemed primed for Thomas to reel in Julian Alaphilippe, the yellow jersey-holder from France who is setting the Tour alight with his punchy riding and determination to keep the race lead, filling French fans’ heads with dreams of a first homegrown winner since 1985.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

But instead, Thomas has seen Alaphilippe only get further and further away. In two days, the Frenchman has put 50 seconds of extra daylight between him and the Welshman. His lead — up to 2 minutes, 2 seconds — is becoming large enough to start realistically envisioning Alaphilippe in yellow in Paris next weekend as the first French winner since Bernard Hinault.

Fueling the ecstasy of delirious crowds that lined Saturday’s steep uphill finish, French rider Thibaut Pinot won Stage 14, putting him back in the picture to fight for the podium after he lost mountains of time on Stage 10.

Thomas rightly pointed out that the Tour is far from done, with six more ascents to above 2,000 meters still to come.

But his inability to stay with Pinot, Alaphilippe and other title contenders at the top of the Tourmalet — he was eighth, 36 seconds behind Pinot — was a mini-earthquake for the Tour dominated by his British team since 2012 — with champions Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and, in 2018, Thomas.

“Not the best day. I just didn’t feel quite on it from the start. I was quite weak,” Thomas said.

“At the end I knew I just had to pace it. I didn’t really attempt to follow when they kicked. I just thought I should ride my own pace rather than follow them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end. It’s disappointing. I just tried to limit the damage.”

Having taken cycling to a new level since 2012 with its vast budget and attention to the minutest of details, the team run by David Brailsford has been hit both by misfortune and by the inevitability that, eventually, other teams would start to close the gap.

A horror crash in training for four-time winner Froome, now recovering from career-threatening broken bones, robbed the team of its ace. Thomas’ own preparations were hampered by a crash at the Tour of Switzerland last month.

And Egan Bernal, being groomed by Brailsford to succeed Froome and Thomas, looks increasingly unable to compete for the title this year. Bernal was fifth on the Tourmalet and is fourth overall, 3 minutes behind Alaphilippe.

Pinot, now sixth overall and 3:12 behind Alaphilippe, is showing remarkable grit in bouncing back from his Stage 10 misfortune, when he was part of a group that got separated from other title contenders in crosswinds.

“I have this rage inside me, because in my opinion it was an injustice,” said Pinot, a podium finisher in 2014.

“Since the start of the Tour I had this stage in the back of my mind. The Tourmalet, it’s mythical,” said Pinot, who has three career stage wins at the Tour.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on hand at the top of the Tourmalet to see Pinot win and Alaphilippe extend his lead, gushed about the “two fantastic riders.”

“They attack and they have heart,” Macron said.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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