Ryan Lochte
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Ryan Lochte feels like ‘underdog’ as loaded Mesa meet starts

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Four years ago, Ryan Lochte was the world’s best swimmer, coming off a haul of five gold medals at the 2011 World Championships.

Now?

The 31-year-old feels like “the underdog” with the Olympics less than four months away and the Olympic Trials in a little more than two months.

“I would say there is less pressure going into these Olympic Games because my past couple of years haven’t really been where I needed to be,” Lochte said Wednesday. “Now that Michael [Phelps] is back and everything, I think I’m back to being the underdog.”

Lochte, Phelps and the other members of U.S. swimming’s Big Four — Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky — all compete in Mesa this weekend (broadcast schedule here).

It should be the last time they’re together at one Grand Prix-level meet before the Olympic Trials in Omaha from June 26-July 3.

Lochte expects to race the 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly on Thursday.

He’s also entered in the 200m butterfly and 100m backstroke on Friday and the 200m individual medley, 200m backstroke and 100m freestyle on Saturday.

Phelps is racing only one event per day — 200m freestyle, 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley.

Lochte and Phelps’ duels are always highlights at these domestic meets, but both are training to peak for the trials, so head-to-heads and even times in Mesa shouldn’t be dissected too much.

Lochte’s setbacks and struggles since he won three individual medals at London 2012 are more pertinent — a coaching change, significant injuries and doubts that reached retirement thoughts.

Lochte made the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in four individual events, but it’s looking unlikely that he can replicate that in Omaha.

Lochte ranked in the top five in the U.S. last year in two events — 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley. He did win his fourth straight 200m individual medley World title on Aug. 6.

But that field didn’t include then-punished Phelps, who had the fastest 2000m IM time in the world last year, or injured Japan superstar Kosuke Hagino, who beat Lochte and Phelps at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.

Lochte and his mad scientist coach David Marsh threw a curveball in January, entering the grueling 400m individual medley at a meet in an Olympic-sized pool for the first time since May 30, 2013.

He won the race, beating the fastest U.S. man in the event from 2015 (Chase Kalisz) by 1.98 seconds. It marked Lochte’s first win in a Grand Prix-level meet in an event other than the 200m individual medley since April 24, 2014.

Lochte remained coy about whether he would swim that grueling race at the Olympic Trials. It’s on the first night of that meet and the Olympics.

Lochte, then the world’s best swimmer, destroyed the field in the London Olympic 400m IM by 3.68 seconds (where Phelps finished fourth).

Times have since changed.

“I haven’t really done anything the past couple of years,” Lochte said Wednesday. “But now that I’m back in shape, I’m training hard, it’s going to be interesting.”

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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 a 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 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.”

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