Chris Froome runs up Mont Ventoux after Tour de France crash (video)

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MONT VENTOUX, France (AP) — Chris Froome was allowed to keep the yellow jersey after the Tour de France race jury ruled he crashed and lost his bike in unfair circumstances during a wacky conclusion to the 12th stage on Thursday.

“Ventoux is full of surprises. … I’m very happy with the jury’s decision,” Froome said.

In a complete embarrassment for race organizers on Bastille Day, Richie Porte crashed headfirst into a motorbike carrying a TV camera and Froome, who was right behind his former teammate, also hit the pavement in the final kilometer on the wind-shortened climb to Mont Ventoux.

The motorbike appeared to have stopped because fans blocked its path.

“We took an exceptional decision because of this exceptional situation, an incident that might have never happened before in 100 years,” said Tour director Christian Prudhomme, explaining that the wind prevented organizers from erecting the usual barriers at the end of most stages.

“There will be an investigation to find out why the TV motorbike was blocked and the riders fell,” Prudhomme added.

Froome threw his mangled bike aside and began running up the road. He eventually was given a small yellow race assistance bike before his team car was finally able to provide him with a suitable substitute.

“I told myself, ‘I don’t have a bike and my car is five minutes behind with another bike, it’s too far away, I’m going to run a bit,'” Froome told French TV.

All of Froome’s main rivals crossed ahead of him, and Froome shook his head in disbelief when he finally reached the finish.

As Froome ran through the crowds he attempted to communicate with his team via radio but the crowds prevented the Team Sky car from reaching him.

“It was a nightmare,” Sky sports director Nicolas Portal said. “It took up to two minutes for him to get a spare bike but the pedals did not suit him. … I can’t understand how so many people were allowed there. It was mayhem.”

Froome, who is seeking his third Tour title in four years, did not come to the post-stage news conference.

Before the crash, Froome dropped most of his rivals apart from Porte and Bauke Mollema.

“Decision by the commissaires panel: Chris Froome and Richie Porte have been given the same (stage) time as Bauke Mollema due to the incident in the finale. Froome retains the yellow jersey,” the Tour website said.

Froome increased his overall lead to 47 seconds ahead of fellow British rider Adam Yates.

Two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana was third, 54 seconds behind, and Mollema moved up to fourth, 56 seconds back.

“I wouldn’t want to take the jersey like this. I’m happy with the decision,” said Yates, who was initially given the race leadership according to preliminary results. “(Froome) is the rightful owner of the yellow jersey.

“If anyone was in the same situation they would feel the same. Nobody wants to take the yellow jersey like that. You want to take it with your legs. There’s not many sports where the fans can get this close to the athletes like this. It is what it is.”

Thomas De Gendt won the stage after getting into an early breakaway and easily sprinting past fellow Belgian Serge Pauwels on the steep slopes of Ventoux.

“There were too many people in the last kilometer,” De Gendt said. “There was not even a place for one motorbike. They should do something about it.”

With the wind at 125 kph (nearly 80 mph) on top of the “Giant of Provence,” organizers moved the finish line six kilometers (3 1/2 miles) down the road to the Chalet Reynard.

It was still a grueling 10-kilometer (six-mile) climb featuring several sections with gradients exceeding 10 percent.

The 178-kilometer (111-mile) leg began in Montpellier near the Mediterranean coast, passed by the 15th-century Chateau of Tarascon, and scaled the hilltop village of Gordes.

It was De Gendt’s first career stage win in the Tour. He finished third in the 2012 Giro d’Italia.

Froome was the stage winner when the Tour previously scaled Ventoux’s barren, 1,909-meter (6,263-foot) peak in 2013.

Ventoux was also the site of an epic contest between Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani in 2000, and where British rider Tom Simpson died in 1967 from a combination of amphetamines and alcohol.

Now, another memorable chapter has been added to Ventoux lore.

The race’s first time trial comes on Friday with a hilly 37.5-kilometer (23-mile) leg from Bourg-Saint-Andeol to La Caverne du Pont-D’Arc, where Froome will again be favored to add to his lead.

MORE: Froome eyes two Olympic races in Rio

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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