Allyson Felix advances in 400m at Olympic Trials; Sanya Richards-Ross out

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Allyson Felix blocked out the knifing agony in her right ankle and made her first run at Olympic Trials look like a jog Friday night.

Sanya Richards-Ross felt a different kind of pain.

On a night Felix cruised on auto-pilot in the 400-meter qualifying round to keep her chance at a 200-400 double alive, Richards-Ross bid a tearful adieu to the fans, after pulling up 250 meters into her lap around the track — her hamstring too tight to carry on.

“I’ve had an amazing career,” Richards-Ross said. “To have my last race be here, at Hayward Field, in front of these fans, it’s incredible.”

In addition to her four Olympic gold medals, including the individual title at the London Games, Richards-Ross holds the stadium record in Eugene — better known as Track Town USA. It was here, five weeks ago at the Prefontaine Classic, that fans got their first true glimpse of what might be coming. Richards-Ross finished seventh that day.

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In this one, her first 15 steps out of the blocks were smooth, but she went from a sprint to a trot. By the time she hit the first curve on the backstretch, she was slowing. And then she pulled up completely.

“Let’s be honest, I hurt my hamstring real bad,” she said. “I worked with a great doctor just to get out on the track today.”

After she pulled up, she walked to the finish line. Fans rose from their seats and Richards-Ross blew kisses.

She earned as many of those fans through her failures as her successes — her long battle with illness and injuries, her third-place finish in Beijing that left her weeping underneath the stands, then, finally, the gold medal in London.

“Most fans have seen my heart through my running,” Richards-Ross said. “I don’t win every time I step on the track. I don’t deserve the ovation because I’m always a champion. But I think they see my heart, my determination, my desire to be a good person.”

Now, though, they’ll be watching Felix and others finish up the 400.

Felix finished second in her heat, posting a time of 51.96 seconds, then headed straight to the trainer’s room for treatment.

She hurt the ankle in the spring and has had a rough time coming back — forced to do most of her running the wrong way around the track so as not to put the injured ankle at more risk.

She has less than 18 hours to recover. Her semifinal heat is set for Saturday afternoon.

The top qualifier to the 400m semi-final was Courtney Okolo, who set an NCAA record in April with a time of 49.71, second fastest in the world this year.

MORE: Jeter, Symmonds out of Olympic Trials

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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MORE: USA Gymnastics revamps Safe Sport policy amid abuse scandal

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.

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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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