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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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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