Froome all but seals 4th Tour de France win in Marseille

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MARSEILLE, France (AP) — Chris Froome has virtually sealed a fourth Tour de France victory on the penultimate stage, stamping his authority on the race in a time trial in Marseille streets.

Froome, the last rider to set off from the Stade Velodrome, finished third in the 22.5-kilometer stage won by Maciej Bodnar, and increased his overall lead.

Colombian rider Rigoberto Uran moved to second place in the general classification, 54 seconds behind Froome, after Frenchman Romain Bardet cracked and dropped to third overall, according to provisional results.

Only the largely ceremonial stage into Paris on the Champs-Elysees stands between Froome and his fourth triumph in five years.

The British rider from Team Sky also won cycling’s biggest race in 2013, 2015 and 2016. He did not win a single stage this year.

Froome, who was booed and whistled by fans at the Stade Velodrome when he went down the starting ramp, almost caught Bardet in the finale.

He was in control throughout, gaining time on his main rivals at all intermediate check points.

Bardet endured his first bad day after three grueling weeks, and reached his limits in the small climb up to Notre-Dame de la Garde cathedral.

Bardet salvaged a spot on the podium by one second, ahead of Mikel Landa of Spain.

Bardet had been second overall before the clock race, with an advantage of more than a minute over Landa. But the French rider melted in the heat on the twisting and technical time trial course.

He said, “I was in poor health and I paid for it, in cash.”

He added he felt his immune system starting to react after the last stage in the high Alps and “I didn’t feel well this morning.”

Twice a runner-up at the Giro d’Italia, Uran added another second-place finish at a Grand Tour on his resume but almost saw his hopes destroyed when he hit barriers as he entered the Velodrome, which hosted the start and finish of Stage 20. Uran managed to stay on his bike but lost precious time and finished 31 seconds off the pace.

Froome’s teammate, Michal Kwiatkowski, was second in the time trial, one second behind Bodnar.

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Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

“It doesn’t beat doing it here. I’ve been working hard,” Ford, in his 86th World Cup start dating to 2009, said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “No secret, just kept it simple and really trusted what I was doing.”

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen were second and third. American Ted Ligety, fourth after the opening run, finished 11th.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment.

He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, the Oregon native and former Dartmouth student had a pair of fifths.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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