Elana Meyers Taylor
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Bobsled, skeleton world championships broadcast schedule, preview

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Elana Meyers Taylor says she’s starting to become herself again. Good timing, since the world championships start this weekend.

Meyers Taylor is the top U.S. gold-medal hope at bobsled and skeleton worlds in Koenigssee, Germany. Races will stream live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, beginning with first two women’s bobsled runs Friday at 8:15 a.m. ET.

The two-time Olympic medalist Meyers Taylor is riding a four-race winning streak on the World Cup, but it’s taken plenty of physical and mental pain to get here. She suffered a concussion in a race crash in Koenigssee on Jan. 26, 2015, with the after-effects lasting into the 2015-16 season, causing her to miss four races.

This season, Meyers Taylor has competed from the start. But she crashed in the season-opening race in Whistler, B.C., and dealt with back pain for most of the last three months. On top of everything, she struggled with the death of one of her grandfathers in early January.

Meyers Taylor teams this weekend with second-year push athlete Kehri Jones, who ejected out of the back of the sled in that Whistler crash.

Worlds were moved from Sochi, Russia, to Koenigssee two months ago amid the Russian doping scandal. Meyers Taylor showed her Koenigssee crash from two years ago was behind her when she won a World Cup race on the track in January.

“I’m confident on this track,” she said earlier this week. “The last time I was here, I was having trouble in the same spot where I had my crash. A little bit of hesitation, a little bit of problems there. Now, everything seems to be clicking down there.”

Meyers Taylor’s goal every season (outside of the Olympics, which she has yet to win) is to sweep the World Cup and world championships titles. That’s exactly what she did in 2015, but Meyers Taylor was third at worlds last season and missed half of the World Cup races due to that concussion.

She attributes recent success to a change in philosophy given the past two years.

“I’ve gotten a different perspective on bobsled,” Meyers Taylor said. “Every day I go out there, I’m just happy to be there and happy to be sliding. I’ve really taken the approach this year to focus on my driving and not worry about winning or losing races. Wins will come if I drive well.”

Her biggest challengers at worlds will come from her longtime top rivals, Canadian Kaillie Humphries and American Jamie Greubel Poser, who joined Meyers Taylor on the Sochi podium. Meyers Taylor led after the first three of four runs at the Olympics before falling behind Humphries in the finale.

The Olympics and worlds are the only events with a four-run format. Humphries leads this season’s World Cup standings through seven of eight races, but Meyers Taylor still believes she’s the woman to beat in Koenigssee.

“I’d be stupid if I didn’t say myself,” she said.

After Koenigssee, the world’s top sliders head to PyeongChang for training on the Olympic track plus the final World Cup of the season. Meyers Taylor, 32, expects to compete beyond 2018, “until the wheels fall off,” but also wants to start a family with her husband.

All but one of the push athletes on the national team were recruited to the sport by Meyers Taylor, making her perhaps the most valuable person in the entire American program.

“It’s called desperation,” she said. “I know that world championships and PyeongChang is going to come down to hundredths of a second. I needed every hundredth of a second I could from a brakeman standpoint. I make it a point to go out there and find my own athletes. If I want something to happen, I’ve got to make sure to do it myself. I can’t leave it up to somebody randomly finding bobsled.”

Jones, whom Meyers Taylor calls her “spark plug,” came over in 2015 after sprinting at Baylor University.

Meyers Taylor was talking with Baylor’s strength-and-conditioning and track-and-field coaches about potential bobsled converts when Jones’ name came up in an email. Jones’ diminutive size (5 feet, 130 pounds) made her valuable in bobsled, where sled weight maximums have been reduced in the last two years.

A look at the other disciplines at worlds:

Men’s Bobsled
German sleds have won 12 of the last 14 two- or four-man world titles on German tracks. The host nation has three drivers capable of taking gold this year — Francesco Friedrich, Johannes Lochner and Nico Walther.

In the two-man, Friedrich is favored to join Italian legend Eugenio Monti as the only drivers to win four straight world titles in any event. He has won four of the seven World Cup races this season after coming back to beat Lochner for his third straight world title last year.

In the four-man, Lochner has won three of the seven races this season, his first full-time on the World Cup circuit. At the race in Koenigssee last month, Lochner and Walther went one-two.

If anybody is to upset the Germans, it may be 2010 Olympic four-man champion Steven Holcomb. The American tied Friedrich for second at the World Cup two-man in Koenigssee last month — behind Lochner — and was fourth in the four-man. He also finished third and sixth in the races at the 2011 Worlds in Koenigssee. These are expected to be the final worlds for the 36-year-old Holcomb.

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Men’s Skeleton
Russian Aleksandr Tretiyakov and Latvian Martins Dukurs enter as co-favorites, having alternated World Cup wins in Koenigssee the last four years and put up strong seasons to date. Tretiyakov topped Dukurs for the Olympic title in Sochi, while Dukurs relegated Tretiyakov to silver at the last two worlds.

Tretiyakov was banned for nine days in December and January after being implicated in the McLaren report on Russian doping leading up to and during Sochi, but the sanction was lifted due to a lack of evidence.

South Korean Yun Sung-Bin, a 2016 World Championships and World Cup runner-up (sharing silver at the former with Tretiyakov), has said he will skip worlds to get more training on the 2018 Olympic track in PyeongChang. That increases the medal chances for Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Matthew Antoine, but the American placed seventh, 10th and 15th in his last three Koenigssee outings.

Women’s Skeleton
Despite its sliding-sports dominance, Germany has never won an Olympic skeleton title. That could change next year. Jacqueline Loelling and Tina Hermann have been the two best women’s sliders over the past two years. At ages 22 and 24, they have succeeded Anja Huber and Marion Thees in the German program.

Loelling leads the World Cup standings and won the race in Koenigssee last month. Last season, Hermann swept the World Cup and World Championships titles, plus won both races in Koenigssee.

Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain returned this season after a one-year break but has one podium finish in six World Cup starts. Likewise, the U.S. women have combined for one World Cup podium, a disappointment after Annie O’Shea finished fourth in last season’s World Cup standings.

MORE: Jamaica bobsled team crowdfunds for new coach

Date Time (ET) Event Network
Friday, 2/17 8:15 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/17 10 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/17 3 p.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/18 4:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 6 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 9:15 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 10:45 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 4 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/18 5 p.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 3-4 Universal HD
Sunday, 2/19 4:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 6 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 9 a.m. Team Event Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 5 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 3-4 NBCSN
Sunday, 2/19 8:30 p.m. Team Event Universal HD
Friday, 2/24 5 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 7 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 9 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 11 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 4 p.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 1-2 Universal HD
Friday, 2/24 5 p.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/25 2:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 3 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 4:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 4 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 7:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 9:15 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 5 p.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 3-4 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/25 6 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Sunday 2/26 2:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 3 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 4:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 4 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 7:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 9:15 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 3:30 p.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 3-4 NBCSN
Sunday 2/26 4:30 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 3-4 NBCSN

Annemiek van Vleuten wins La Course with epic comeback (video)

AP
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Annemiek van Vleuten, the cyclist who returned from a horrific Rio Olympic road race crash to become world champion, repeated as La Course winner with an epic last-kilometer comeback on Tuesday.

Van Vleuten sprinted from several seconds behind countrywoman Anna van der Breggen to win the one-day race, including four categorized climbs, contested on part of the Tour de France stage 10 course later that day.

“With 300 meters to go, I still thought I got second, and then I saw her dying,” Van Vleuten said, adding later, according to Cyclingnews.com, “With 500 meters to go my team director in the car gave up and stopped cheering for me.”

In Rio, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped over into a ditch during the road race. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course.

She was eventually hospitalized in intensive care.

Van der Breggen went on to win the Olympic title, while van Vleuten returned quick enough to race at the October 2016 World Championships.

Van Vleuten, 35, won her first world title 13 months after the Rio Games, taking the time trial crown ahead of van der Breggen by 12 seconds. She also won the 10-stage Giro Rosa that concluded on Sunday.

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Greg Van Avermaet triples Tour de France lead in first mountain stage

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Belgian Greg Van Avermaet more than tripled his Tour de France overall lead in the first day in the mountains on Tuesday, but Wednesday may be his last day in the yellow jersey.

Julian Alaphilippe became the first Frenchman to win a stage in this year’s Tour, claiming the 10th stage that included three first-category climbs and a beyond-category climb but ended with a descent and the contenders together in the peloton.

Van Avermaet finished fourth, 1:44 behind Alaphilippe. More importantly, Van Avermaet crossed the Grand-Bornand finish line 1:39 ahead of a group that included most of the main contenders to top the podium in Paris on July 29.

The Olympic road race champion increased his overall lead from 43 seconds to 2:22.

Van Avermaet has worn the maillot jaune for a week straight, but he is not a climber, and the biggest test of the Tour thus far is imminent.

“No disrespect, but he’s not going to win the Tour,” said Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas, who is in second place.

The Tour continues with stage 11, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Wednesday (full broadcast schedule here). The 67-mile stage starts in the 1992 Winter Olympic host Albertville and includes two beyond-category climbs. It concludes with a category-one summit at La Rosière.

“Tomorrow’s a climber’s day,” Van Avermaet said. “It will be super hard to keep [the yellow jersey]. … Tomorrow it will be over.”

Chris Froome, eyeing a record-tying fifth Tour de France title, is best placed of the pre-Tour favorites.

Froome is in sixth place and 3:21 behind Van Avermaet. Froome is followed by Spaniard Mikel Landa in the same time and 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali another six seconds back.

Colombian Rigoberto Uran, the 2017 Tour runner-up, finished 2:36 behind the group with Froome, Landa and Nibali.

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