Chris Froome left with few challengers at Tour de France

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CHAMBERY, France (AP) — Chris Froome probably hoped he had a bigger lead than his 18-second advantage over Fabio Aru on the Tour de France’s first rest day.

At least he’s still in one piece, though.

Richie Porte, Froome’s most feared opponent, and Geraint Thomas, Froome’s most loyal support rider at Team Sky, both crashed out of the race on Sunday.

With Colombian climbing specialist Nairo Quintana and seven-time Grand Tour winner Alberto Contador dropping out of contention, it seems there’s only a handful of riders remaining who can still challenge Froome for the title in Paris on July 23.

Aru, the Italian champion and 2015 Spanish Vuelta winner, leads the list followed closely by last year’s runner-up Romain Bardet, the Frenchman who is third overall, 51 seconds back.

Rigoberto Uran, the Colombian who was a two-time runner-up in the Giro d’Italia, is fourth at 55 seconds and Aru’s Astana teammate, Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark, is fifth at 1:37.

The only other rider within two minutes of Froome is Dan Martin, the Irish cyclist who excels on the shorter, steeper climbs that are so prevalent in this year’s race.

TOUR: Results/Standings | Highlights | Broadcast Schedule

“I said (Saturday) that I expected the general classification to be blown up and looking at it, it has,” Froome said. “It’s a lot more spread out now.”

Froome and the other 181 riders still in the three-week race flew across the country late Sunday to southwestern France, where after Monday’s rest day the race resumes with two flat stages suited for sprinters.

Tuesday’s Stage 10 coverage starts at 7:05 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold and 7:30 on NBCSN.

The overall battle probably won’t see any changes until the race enters the Pyrenees Thursday and Friday with 16-percent slopes to the Peyragudes ski station and 18-percent stretches on the Mur de Peguere.

After some milder climbing in the Massif Central the Tour returns to the Alps for the so-called “Queen stage” — an unprecedented mountain-top finish at the Col d’Izoard.

The hostile terrain of sun- and snow-scorched rocks and the thinning mountain air on the long climb to an altitude of 2,360 meters (7,742 feet) could make the Izoard, at the end of stage 18, the scene of the last major contest between the remaining favorites.

Aiming to secure his fourth title in five years, Froome likely needs only the slimmest of margins — or even a small deficit — entering the 22.5-kilometer (14-mile) time trial in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille on the penultimate stage 20.

A superb time trialer, Froome should be able to take time on all of his rivals in the race against the clock — just like he did in Stage 1.

Whoever wears yellow at the end of the day in Marseille will cruise around the Champs-Elysees in the mostly ceremonial final leg a day later and pick up the trophy.

Right now, though, it’s all about recovery for Froome and the other leaders after Sunday’s punishing mountain leg.

Rest days, however, are not just for resting.

Almost every rider will go out and train for an hour or two Monday just to keep their bodies from shutting down.

Cannondale-Drapac team manager Jonathan Vaughters explained that the approach to rest days isn’t really understood scientifically because there have not been enough studies of elite riders performing three-week races.

“So what you’re doing is based on theory and anecdote. The pure science would say, ‘Stay in bed all day and don’t move.’ But that doesn’t work,” Vaughters said. “It’s the same as turning the engine off. You just can’t get it started again.

“It’s like studying hard for exams. You’re fine, fine, fine. Then you take the exam and get home from the exam and then the next day you have the flu,” Vaughters said. “You’re like, ‘Now I can rest.’ And then boom, you’re sick.”

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2018 USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships broadcast schedule

Matthew Centrowitz, Jenny Simpson
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NBC Sports and NBC Sports Gold combine to air daily live coverage of the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships from Thursday through Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa.

Athletes will compete for national titles and spots on the team for the first Athletics World Cup in London next month. More details on Athletics World Cup qualifying here.

While veteran Olympic champions will miss the event, a new generation of sprinters headlines the entry lists. A full competition schedule is here.

Noah Lyles and Michael Norman, who were fourth and fifth in the 2016 Olympic Trials 200m as 18-year-olds, have been the most impressive U.S. male sprinters this season and go head-to-head for the first time in two years.

Sydney McLaughlin, who reached the Rio Olympic 400m hurdles semifinals as a 17-year-old, is entered in the 400m.

Olympic and world champions also scatter the distance races and field events, including Matthew Centrowitz and Jenny Simpson (1500m), Emma Coburn (3000m steeplechase), Christian Taylor (Olympic triple jump champ also entered in the 400m), Tianna Bartoletta and Jeff Henderson (long jump), Jenn Suhr (pole vault) and Michelle Carter and Ryan Crouser (shot put).

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Day Time (ET) Network Key Events
Thursday 2-11 p.m. NBC Sports Gold 100m first round, 10,000m finals
Friday 12:30-11 p.m. NBC Sports Gold 100m finals, 400m semifinals
11 p.m.-1 a.m. NBCSN, Gold
Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. NBC Sports Gold Finals: 400m, 1500m, 100m hurdles
4-6 p.m. NBC, Gold
Sunday 12:30-6 p.m. NBC Sports Gold Finals: 200m, 5000m, 110m hurdles
4-6 p.m. NBC, Gold

Allyson Felix among sprinters to miss USATF Outdoor Championships

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Olympic gold medalists Allyson FelixJustin GatlinTori BowieLaShawn MerrittBrianna McNealKerron Clement and Dalilah Muhammad are among the stars not entered in this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.

Christian Coleman, who took 100m silver at 2017 Worlds between Gatlin and Usain Bolt, will also miss the event.

Any athlete not on the current entry list will not compete.

Big-name absences aren’t shocking this year given it is the only year in the four-year cycle without an Olympics or world championships to qualify for at nationals.

Felix, Gatlin, Bowie and Coleman have all dealt with injuries or withdrawn from international meets this spring. Merritt hasn’t raced on the Diamond League circuit this season.

Felix, the American record holder with 25 combined Olympic and world outdoor championships medals, will not race at senior nationals for the first time since 2002, when she was 16 years old.

A new generation of sprinters will headline nationals, including Noah Lyles and Michael Norman in the 200m and Sydney McLaughlin in the 400m. Phyllis Francis, the world 400m champion, is entered in the 200m. Kori Carter, the world 400m hurdles champion, is in the 100m hurdles with world-record holder Kendra Harrison.

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