Geraint Thomas wins crash-filled Tour de France Stage 1

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A Team Sky rider leads the Tour de France after Stage 1. Will another one wear the yellow jersey in Paris in three weeks?

Geraint Thomas became the first Welshman to lead the Tour after clocking the fastest individual time trial on a crash-filled rainy day in Duesseldorf, Germany, on Saturday.

“I didn’t even think about it [winning], to be honest,” said Thomas, the most experienced member of favorite Chris Froome‘s support team. “I didn’t believe it was going to happen. I thought [German world time trial champion Tony] Martin‘s going to beat me. Or so-and-so’s going to beat me.”

Thomas covered the flat, wet, nine-mile course in 16 minutes, 4 seconds. He was five seconds faster than Swiss Stefan Kueng.

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Several riders crashed earlier on the course. The biggest was to Alejandro Valverde, the third-place finisher in 2015 who slammed into a metal barrier and abandoned the Tour.

That boosts the hopes for Froome, who is looking for his fourth Tour title in five years. Froome ended up in sixth place, 12 seconds behind his Team Sky mate Thomas.

More importantly, Froome is the highest placed of the general classification contenders. He is 35 and 36 seconds ahead of Richie Porte and Nairo Quintana, respectively.

The top American was Taylor Phinney in 12th place, 17 seconds behind Thomas. Phinney, 27 and a three-time Olympian, is making his Tour debut three years after suffering a broken tibia, broken patella, a severed patella tendon and a ruptured PCL from hitting a guard rail at the U.S. Championships.

“I wasn’t really thinking about the journey, but it’s been quite a ride,” Phinney said on NBCSN afterward. “Can’t complain. Didn’t crash today. Jazzed.”

Thomas, in his eighth Tour de France, notched his first stage win in a Grand Tour. The 31-year-old won Olympic team pursuit gold medals on the track with Great Britain in 2008 and 2012.

Sunday’s Stage 2 is a mostly flat 126 miles from Duesseldorf to Liege, Belgium, that should set up well for sprinters. A fourth-category climb about 12 miles before the conclusion likely won’t prevent a mass finish.

NBC Sports Gold‘s live coverage starts at 5:55 a.m. ET. NBCSN coverage starts at 7:30.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Stage 1
1. Geraint Thomas (GBR) — 16:04
2. Stefan Kueng (SUI) — +:05
3. Vasil Kiriyenka (BLR) — +:07
4. Tony Martin (GER) — +:08
5. Matteo Trentin (ITA) — +:10
6. Chris Froome (GBR) — +:12
12. Taylor Phinney (USA) — +:17
49. Richie Porte (AUS) — +:47
53. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +:48

Adam Jones, five-time MLB All-Star, becomes Olympic eligible

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Should the U.S. qualify for baseball’s Olympic return, a five-time MLB All-Star could be eligible for its roster in Tokyo. And he has interest.

Outfielder Adam Jones signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s domestic league, which, unlike MLB, will take an Olympic break next summer to allow players to take part in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years.

Jones, 34, made no mention of Olympic eligibility in a social media post announcing the signing. His Instagram avatar is a photo of him in a Team USA jersey from the World Baseball Classic.

Jones’ agent later said that Jones does have interest in playing for the U.S. in Tokyo, should an American team qualify in the spring.

“To play over in Japan has always been a desire of Adam’s, and the timing worked out that the Olympics happens to be played in Tokyo the first year of his contract,” Jones’ agent wrote in an email. “It wasn’t one of the factors on his decision BUT more of a [sic] addition to the overall package to decide to go.”

Jones called being part of the U.S.’ 2017 WBC title, “probably the best experience of my life so far, especially with sports,” according to The Associated Press. He was one of five players to be on the U.S. team at each of the last two World Baseball Classics.

The U.S. still faces a difficult task to qualify for the Tokyo Games. It lost to Mexico last month in its first of up to three chances at qualifying tournaments, using a roster of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

Major Leaguers are not expected to be made available for qualifying or for the Tokyo Games.

The next two qualifying tournaments will be in late March (an Americas qualifier in Arizona) and early April (a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei). It remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

Jones could become the third player with prior MLB All-Star experience to compete at the Olympics from any nation, joining Australian catcher Dave Nilsson and Canadian pitcher Jason Dickson.

Jones made five All-Star teams during an 11-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles from 2008-18 before playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

Many players competed at the Olympics before making an MLB All-Star team, including Stephen Strasburg and Jason Giambi.

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Russia boxers to boycott Olympics if sanctions not lifted

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Russian boxers will only take part in the Tokyo Olympics if doping sanctions forcing them to compete as neutral athletes are overturned, the general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Umar Kremlev said he has spoken with the Olympic boxing team and they “unanimously” rejected the conditions laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for manipulating doping data.

The WADA sanctions, announced on Monday, ban the use of the Russian team name, flag or anthem at a range of major sports competitions over the next four years, including next year’s Olympics.

“They said we won’t go without our flag and anthem,” Kremlev said. “We aren’t going for medals, but for that feeling that I brought the highest honor home for my country.”

Separately, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Russia could create an alternative to the Olympics.

“This ruling show the clear crisis in international sports institutions. I believe that Russia could host its own games at home,” Valentina Matvienko said in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.

There is a precedent. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union refused to compete in the Olympics and hosted its own Spartakiads — named after the ancient rebel slave Spartacus — with a strong socialist slant. However, the Soviet Union began competing at the Olympics in 1952 and Russians generally take great pride in the country’s Olympic achievements since then.

If the sanctions aren’t overturned, Kremlev said Russian boxers would prefer to turn pro rather than compete at the Olympics.

“A world champion (in professional boxing) is better known than an Olympic champion,” Kremlev said, adding the Russian anthem would be played before pro title fights.

Kremlev said boxers are being asked to shoulder the blame for offenses committed in other sports. He said they would still stay at home even if Russia’s athletes in other sports decided to take part.

“If other sports are guilty and people have breached the WADA code, why are we punished?” he said. “We are for honest sport and against doping. We want our sport to be clean … If someone breaks the rules, we push them out.”

Russia is a major power in amateur and Olympic boxing. It hosted both men’s and women’s world championships this year, finishing at the top of the medals table at the women’s event and second in the men’s championships. The International Olympic Committee has taken direct charge of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics after criticizing chronic financial problems and infighting at the International Boxing Association.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov talked up Russia’s chances of overturning the WADA sanctions.

“I think that there is every basis to appeal the decision, because our experts have presented their position, and they have the same database as WADA does,” Kolobkov said in comments reported by state news agency TASS. “There is an answer to every question and the whole process is ahead of us.”

The official decision on whether to dispute the sanctions will be made on Dec. 19 by the Russian anti-doping agency’s supervisory board, but senior figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have signaled their preference for taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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