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Lindsey Vonn’s comeback delayed as Alpine races canceled

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ALTENMARKT-ZAUCHENSEE, Austria (AP) — Lindsey Vonn‘s return to World Cup skiing has been delayed for at least a day after snowfall forced the cancellation of downhill training and the race itself on Saturday.

Organizers moved the program to Sunday, with the race set for a 6:15 a.m. ET start (NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app). A combined event, which was originally scheduled for Sunday, was canceled. Weather was forecast to improve overnight.

Also, a World Cup men’s downhill scheduled in Wengen, Switzerland, was canceled Saturday due to heavy snowfall and fog. A slalom is scheduled Sunday.

Vonn, a four-time overall champion, and American teammate Julia Mancuso planned to make their World Cup comebacks this weekend after extensive injury layoffs.

Saturday’s program was initially delayed for at least an hour as course workers were still busy moving fresh snow off the course at the scheduled start time for training, but conditions failed to improve. The snowfall would also have limited visibility for the skiers.

To shorten the distance to be cleaned, the start gate for the downhill had been lowered, which stripped the Kalberloch course of its trademark steep pitch from the initial start.

“Unfortunately the weather is not helping us,” Vonn said shortly before the race was called off for the day. “The snow is very soft. Hopefully the course workers can do something.”

Slovenian Ilka Stuhec, who won all three races so far this season to lead the downhill standings, said she “would love to race.”

“But there is a limit when you shouldn’t race anymore but stay healthy instead,” the Slovenian said.

Bad weather also canceled training for the last two days, prompting organizers to reschedule the mandatory session two hours before the race. A downhill race cannot be held without prior training.

It’s the second straight season that the event has been affected by poor weather conditions. Last year, the downhill took place on a shortened course in an unusual two-run format, which was won by Vonn.

If Sunday’s program was canceled as well, the next opportunity to race for Vonn and Mancuso will be in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where a downhill and a super-G are scheduled for next weekend.

There will be one more speed event ahead of next month’s world championships, in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Jan. 28-29.

MORE: Bode Miller plans to race next season, U.S. coach says

Chris Froome wins Giro d’Italia, is 3rd cyclist to hold all three Grand Tours

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Chris Froome joined Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault as the only cyclists to hold all three Grand Tour titles at once, wrapping up his first Giro d’Italia on the ceremonial ride into Rome on Sunday.

Froome, a 33-year-old, Kenyan-born, South African-raised Brit, also became the seventh rider to win all three Grand Tours in a career, joining Merckx, Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali.

Froome has won four Tours de France (2013, 2015-17) and claimed his first Vuelta a España in September. He also owns two Olympic bronze medals and a world championships bronze medal.

Froome all but clinched the Giro title in Friday’s 19th stage. With an audacious solo attack up the Colle delle Finestre, the three-week stage race’s highest climb, he went from three minutes down to three minutes up in the standings, taking the pink leader’s jersey for the first time in his career.

“I had some very, very tough moments, so to come back and win yesterday and defend the jersey [Saturday] is very, very special,” Froome said Saturday. “This was the biggest battle of my career.”

GIRO: Overall Standings

Froome raced the Giro for the first time since 2010, when he was a relative nobody in the sport and disqualified for holding onto a motorbike, also during stage 19.

Froome could become the first rider to notch the arduous Giro-Tour de France double in the same year since Italian Marco Pantani in 1998. That is, if he even starts the Tour in a little over a month.

In December, Froome was ordered to explain to the International Cycling Union (UCI) why a urine sample he provided at the Vuelta showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol that was twice the permitted level. It remains unclear when the UCI will rule on the case.

“I know inside that I didn’t do anything wrong,” Froome said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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VIDEO: 17-year-old runs 3:52 mile at Pre Classic

Venus Williams upset on first day of French Open

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PARIS (AP) — Venus Williams is out of the French Open on the opening day.

The 2002 runner-up and ninth-seeded American lost 6-4, 7-5 to Wang Qiang of China in the first round on Court Suzanne Lenglen on Sunday.

Wang avenged her loss to Williams in the first round at Roland Garros last year. The 85th-ranked player was also beaten by Williams at Wimbledon a few weeks later and had never beaten Williams before Sunday.

It’s the fourth time Williams exits the French Open in the first round in 21 appearances.

She also lost in the first round at the Australian Open in January.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens needed less than an hour to move into the second round.

The 10th-seeded Stephens advanced with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands. It was Stephens’ first win at a Grand Slam tournament since claiming her first major title in New York last September.

“I tried to do way more than I should have after the U.S. Open, and I should have just shut it down,” Stephens said when asked about her poor recent results. “My heart was there but my body wasn’t. So when the two things aren’t connected, it’s never a good thing.”

The American, who lost in the first round at the Australian Open in January, hit 17 winners and spent just 49 minutes on court on Day 1 in Paris. Rus was in the first round as a “lucky loser.”

On a sunny and warm day, Stephens was joined in the second round by fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina, who defeated Ajla Tomljanovic, 7-5, 6-3 after recovering from a 5-1 deficit in the opening set.

In the men’s draw, fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov found out about his opponent around 30 minutes before stepping onto Court Philippe Chatrier but had no problem adapting to the situation.

Dimitrov, a semifinalist at Monte Carlo this season, was slated to play Viktor Troicki but instead faced Mohamed Safwat of Egypt because Troicki withdrew with pain in his back. Dimitrov hit 31 winners and prevailed 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (1).

“I just needed, like, five, ten minutes to disconnect from what I had in mind to play and what I wanted to do and kind of look at the few videos of the way he was playing,” Dimitrov said. “After that, I just had to go out and do the best that I can. I think it was a good start.”

Safwat, the first Egyptian man to compete at a Grand Slam since Tamer El Sawy at the 1996 US Open, was cheered off the court.

Gael Monfils, one of six Frenchmen in action on Sunday, overcame a slow start and an upset stomach and headache to advance by defeating compatriot and wild card Elliot Benchetrit. Monfils won 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1.

“I was stressed and even sick at the beginning,” Monfils said. “Then experience played in my favor.”

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FRENCH OPEN: TV/Stream Schedule | ScoresMen’s Draw (PDF) | Women’s Draw