Chris Froome wins fourth Tour de France title

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PARIS (AP) — Riding a bright yellow bike to match his shiny leader’s jersey, defending champion Chris Froome won his fourth and most challenging Tour de France title on Sunday.

The 32-year-old Kenyan-born British rider finished 54 seconds ahead of Colombian Rigoberto Uran overall, the smallest margin of his wins.

“This Tour has been my toughest yet. I want to pay tribute to all riders for their sportsmanship,” Froome said. “We raced hard together, we suffered together.”

This was the third straight win for the Team Sky rider. His first in 2013 came the year after former teammate Bradley Wiggins sparked off an era of British dominance.

His margin of victory over Colombian Nairo Quintana in 2013 was by more than four minutes. Quintana pushed him much harder in 2015, finishing only 1:12 back, but Froome beat Frenchman Romain Bardet by 4:05 last year. Bardet was third this time.

Froome looked emotional as he lifted the race winner’s bouquet of flowers, his eyes seemingly watering. Then, smiling broadly, he gave a thumbs-up to the crowd before going to pick up his young son and walking back onto the podium with him in his arms.

“I want to dedicate this victory to my family. Your love and support makes everything possible,” he said. “I also want to thank my team Sky (for your) dedication and passion.”

Then, switching to an admirably improving French, Froome addressed the Parisian crowd.

“I wanted to thank the French fans, thank you for the welcome and your generosity,” said Froome, who was nevertheless loudly jeered in Marseille on Saturday. “More than 100 years ago you created this beautiful race. Your passion for this race makes it really special. I fell in love with this race.”

Bardet placed 2 minutes, 20 seconds behind him. But he denied Spaniard Mikel Landa — Froome’s teammate — a podium spot by just one second. Italian Fabio Aru, who briefly led the race, finished fifth, 3:05 behind.

“It’s always more difficult to repeat a result,” Bardet said. “I’m really happy with this podium finish.”

As per tradition, the 21st stage was reserved for sprinters and mostly a procession for Froome and the other overall leaders.

Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen won the final stage in a dash to the line, edging German rider Andre Greipel and Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Moments later, Froome and the rest of the peloton crossed the line after eight laps of an eye-catching circuit around the city’s landmarks, finishing as usual on the famed Champs-Elysees.

Froome now needs only one more title to match the Tour record of five shared by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

“It’s a huge honor to be talked about in the same sentence as those guys,” Froome said. “Lots of respect for them.”

Froome sealed his win on Saturday, finishing third in the time trial in Marseille where he put more time into Uran and Bardet, who dropped from second to third.

After more than three weeks of stressful racing, it was a relaxed and easygoing atmosphere as riders set out from Montgeron in the Essone suburb south of Paris to the evening finish 103 kilometers (64 miles) away.

Froome chatted casually with two-time champion Alberto Contador, the Spanish veteran, as if they were on a sight-seeding ride.

Right in front of them, Frenchman Warren Barguil — wearing the best climber’s red-and-white polka dot jersey — swapped race anecdotes with Australian Michael Matthews, wearing the green jersey awarded for the Tour’s top sprinter.

Matthews became the third Australian to win the green jersey, all this decade, following Robbie McEwen and Baden Cooke.

“It’s really a dream come true to stand there with the green jersey,” the 26-year-old Matthews said.

Froome’s teammates wore a yellow stripe on the back of their Team Sky shirts. They allowed themselves a flute of champagne, chinking glasses with leader Froome, as they casually rolled through the streets under cloudy skies beside cheering fans packing the roads into Paris.

Everyone was in high spirits, happy to be make it through a grueling race that saw Australian Richie Porte, one of the pre-race favorites, and Froome’s teammate Geraint Thomas both crash out. Britain’s Mark Cavendish, a 30-time Tour stage winner, and Marcel Kittel — winner of five stages this year — pulled out injured after crashes. Peter Sagan, winner of the past five green jerseys, was thrown out of the Tour for causing Cavendish’s crash.

As the slow-moving peloton passed near where Frenchman Yoann Offredo grew up, a television camera moved alongside, asking what it was like to be riding so close to home.

“I might nip to the bathroom,” he said, jokingly.

Another rider, Cyril Gautier, asked his girlfriend Caroline to marry him: the proposal scrawled on a piece of paper held up by the smiling Frenchman as he blew a kiss to the camera.

Barring a crash, Froome was virtually assured of winning.

The route to another victory continued to unfurl before him without mishap — although he did have to change bikes at one stage. Barguil had a brief hiccup, needing to catch up after a puncture, but generally the peloton took in the sights.

Riders passed the Hotel des Invalides — a magnificent, sprawling set of buildings ordered by King Louis XIV in the 17th century — and actually rode through the resplendent Grand Palais exhibition hall, then past the golden statute of Joan of Arc, up the famed Champs-Elysees from the iconic Place de la Concorde and its towering 23-meter Egyptian obelix, and around the Arc de Triomphe.

Some might say Froome did not shine too brightly because he didn’t win a stage, but neither did American Greg LeMond when clinching his third and final Tour in 1990.

For Froome, consistency and a dogged ability to respond when put under pressure were the keys to his latest success.

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Erin Hamlin to run New York City Marathon

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Erin Hamlin, the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist and Team USA flag bearer at the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony, will run the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

Hamlin, a 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who retired after her fourth Olympics in PyeongChang at age 31, is running to fundraise for the Women’s Sports Foundation. So is Marlen Esparza, who in 2012 became the first U.S. Olympic women’s boxing medalist (flyweight bronze).

Hamlin has no marathon experience, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

“Being challenged in sport is something I am very familiar with,” Hamlin said in a mass email Wednesday, according to TeamUSA.org. “Long distance running is something I most certainly am not!! It will be difficult, mentally and physically daunting, but a way to test my abilities in a sport so far out of my comfort zone.”

Many Olympians in non-running sports have raced the New York City Marathon.

Bill Demong, the 2010 U.S. Olympic Closing Ceremony flag bearer and only U.S. Olympic Nordic combined champion, ran the 2014 NYC Marathon in 2:33:05, crushing eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno‘s 3:25:14 from 2011.

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Softball set to return to Olympics as first event on Tokyo 2020 schedule

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Softball, returning to the Olympics after a 12-year absence, is scheduled to kick off the 2020 Tokyo Games, two days before the Opening Ceremony.

The preliminary master schedule for the Tokyo Olympics was published Wednesday, with the first softball game scheduled for 10 a.m. local time on the Wednesday before the Opening Ceremony.

The first game is scheduled to be held in Fukushima, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami 155 miles north of Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers have been eager to use the Games as a symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster

Traditionally, soccer has been the first sport to have action at a Summer Olympics, one or two days before the Opening Ceremony. While soccer is again scheduled to have matches that same Wednesday, they start later than 10 a.m.

The Tokyo 2020 schedule is subject to change and certainly not a final version — swimming, diving and synchronized swimming schedules are still to be determined, but those sports do not typically start before the Opening Ceremony.

Softball was added in 1991 to the Olympic program to debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The U.S. won the first three gold medals before softball and baseball were narrowly voted off the Olympic program in 2005/06 (a 52-52 IOC vote for softball, with a majority needed to stay in the Olympics), with the 2008 Beijing Games being the last edition. Japan won the last Olympic softball gold medal 10 years ago.

Then on Aug. 3, 2016, baseball and softball were among five sports added for the 2020 Tokyo Games only, at the request of Tokyo Olympic organizers. Baseball and softball are not guaranteed to remain on the Olympic program in Paris in 2024.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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