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As NHL stars react to Olympics, who will follow Alex Ovechkin’s lead?

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NHL stars expressed disappointment, of course, after the NHL announced it would not participate in the PyeongChang Olympics, but an important question remains largely unanswered.

Who will follow Alex Ovechkin‘s lead and declare they intend to defy the NHL and play in the Olympics anyway?

Capitals teammate and U.S. Olympic star T.J. Oshie would not answer that question Tuesday.

“When it comes down to it, I’ll make a decision about that, but as of right now, I’m staying positive, hoping we can figure something out,” Oshie said, according to ESPN.com.

Sidney Crosby won’t say, either. Nor will Connor McDavid.

Star Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators declined to answer the question Monday, according to Postmedia News in Canada, but still criticized the NHL.

“Crap, pretty much,” Karlsson said of the NHL decision, according to the report. “I don’t understand the decision. It’s very unfortunate for the game of hockey around the world that they’re going to do this to the sport. I think it’s going to hurt a lot if we don’t end up going.

“Whoever made that decision obviously has no idea what they’re doing.”

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos is also taking a wait-and-see approach. Stamkos memorably missed the Sochi Olympics due to a fractured right tibia.

“Yeah, you can certainly have that attitude [of going to the Olympics anyway], but we don’t know exactly what the rules and regulations will be regarding that topic,” he said, according to ESPN.com. “Until you know that, you can make an informed decision at that time. Personally, there’s some time here to maybe let things settle down a little bit and reflect. Hopefully, something can change their mind.”

Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews both said they would not leave the NHL club midseason to play in the Olympics, according to Chicago media.

Likewise, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said he will not push for a Canadian Olympic team spot if the NHL’s decision is final.

“I wouldn’t be able to go away from my team here,” Holtby said. “I couldn’t do it. That’s just personal. Everyone’s priorities are kind of different.”

Another star Russian forward, Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues, reportedly said he would think about the situation in the summer.

The Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price, the No. 1 goalie for Canada’s gold-medal team in Sochi, wasn’t convinced the NHL’s decision was final.

“I think there’s maybe a little bit of tactics involved,” he said. “We’ll see. The Olympics aren’t here yet.”

Henrik Lundqvist, who backstopped Sweden to gold at the 2006 Torino Olympics, was one of the first stars to comment, doing so via Twitter:

“Disappointing news, NHL won’t be part of the Olympics 2018. A huge opportunity to market the game at the biggest stage is wasted,” he said. “But most of all, disappointing for all the players that can’t be part of the most special adventure in sports.”

The most tenured active Swede, four-time Olympian Henrik Zetterberg, said the NHL “probably wants something from” the NHL players, “as always,” likely referring to a bargaining chip.

Auston Matthews, who was in line to become the youngest U.S. Olympics men’s hockey player since 1992, dismissed a question about the NHL decision but said he would have wanted to go to PyeongChang.

Buffalo Sabres leading scorer Jack Eichel echoed the disappointment sentiment.

“Obviously, as a league, we’re trying to grow our game all over the world,” he said. “I think the Olympics is a good way to do it. … To be able to play the game in other continents, other places, and allow them to see how exciting and the type of game we play, I think it’s a good opportunity.”

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MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups set

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.”

MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

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