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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Dominik Paris, world champion skier, suffers season-ending injury

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Italian Dominik Paris, the reigning world champion in the super-G, suffered a season-ending ACL tear in a training crash Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s speed races in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Paris crashed in super-G training not far from the hallowed World Cup venue, slipping into a curve and damaging his right knee. He also suffered a fibula microfracture, according to the Italian federation.

“My season ends here,” he said, according to the International Ski Federation (FIS). “Unfortunately while I was sliding, the inside ski caught too much and the ligament broke. There is not much to add. In the next few days we will evaluate, together with the medical staff, how to proceed.”

Paris won his third Hahnenkamm downhill title last year and was one of the favorites for Saturday’s downhill, the most prestigious annual race in the sport. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage for “Snow Pass” subscribers at 5:30 a.m. ET.

Paris, 30, won a pair of downhills in Bormio in December among five total podiums this season.

In his absence, Swiss Beat Feuz and German Thomas Dressen lead the podium contenders.

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It’s Nathan Chen’s time at nationals for a feat 32 years in the making

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Nathan Chen can join Brian Boitano in U.S. figure skating history this week, a decade after holding Boitano in the palm of his hands with a program set to music from “Kung Fu Panda.”

Chen seeks a fourth straight national title in Greensboro, N.C. He would be the seventh man to do so since World War II. Five of the previous six won Olympic titles — Dick Button, Hayes Jenkins, David Jenkins, Scott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano from 1985-88.

Boitano remembered the first time he met Chen. He and Kristi Yamaguchi were compelled to leave their seats to find the teeny, tiny wunderkind who performed that program to the 2008 DreamWorks film.

“He was taking off his skates, and he probably came up to our waist,” Boitano said. “We knew when we saw him back then that he was going to be something special. He was really quiet. He’s still very quiet.”

In an interview last week, Chen focused on the present — coming back from a two-week cold or flu bug — rather than the perspective.

“I don’t like to typically think about that,” Chen said when asked about his streak. “It’s just different [from year to year]. It’s not really necessarily easier or harder.”

It is also different from previous eras. The last five men to win four in a row did it all in one Olympic cycle, then stepped away from competition after the Winter Games. That was back when turning professional meant the end of an Olympic career.

“It was kind of the norm back then,” Hamilton said. “After that it was kind of back and forth a lot [until Chen]. The business of skating changed so skaters could stay in a lot more, a lot longer. With all the money they brought in, they were able to prevent skaters from turning professional. So that brought in a different approach to nationals.”

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Both Hamilton and six-time (non-consecutive) U.S. champion Todd Eldredge could think of just one name to compare Chen’s dominance in the history of U.S. men’s skating: Button, who won the first seven national titles after World War II, plus two Olympic golds.

Button earned national and world titles as a Harvard student. Chen is on a two-season win streak while majoring in statistics and data science at Yale. Button was the first skater to land a double Axel and a triple jump of any kind. Chen was the first to land six quads in one free skate.

Eldredge coaches skaters at the same rink where Chen trains when Chen visits his Southern California-based coach Rafael Arutunian. He is awed by watching Chen working out. Though Eldredge owns more national titles, he never felt the massive favorite status that accompanies Chen.

Eldredge competed in the post-Hamilton/Boitano era, when national champions began competing over multiple Olympic cycles. Eldredge ebbed and flowed from his first national title in 1990, when compulsory figures were still around, to 2002, when he defeated Timothy Goebel, then known as the Quad King.

“Physically, the demands of the sport take their toll on your body,” Eldredge said. “It’s hard to maintain that same level for that length of period of time.

“[In] 12 years [since Chen’s first national title], when he’s 29 years old, is he going to be able to continue to sustain that?”

All of the recent top U.S. men competed in multiple Olympic cycles. The last multiple national champion was Jeremy Abbott, who earned two titles each in two different Olympic cycles. Abbott finished his career in a third Olympic cycle, placing fifth at the 2015 U.S. Championships. Abbott didn’t remember that Chen made his senior nationals debut that year, finishing eighth at age 15.

“For me, winning the third and the fourth [titles] were harder because I started thinking about winning,” Abbott said. “After the second one, I was heading into a new quad and I was two-time U.S. champion. Then my focus was, oh, I’m expected to win. So that was a harder mental game rather than just focusing on making an Olympic team. The expectation now that I’ve done this twice in a row, I’m expected to win again and again and again.”

Abbott and Chen came up in the era of the points-based judging system instituted in 2004.

“Now with the way the scoring system is very different [from the old 6.0], cumulative points, if you have a bad day as a national champion, that’s it. You can’t get the points,” Eldredge said. “[In previous eras], if a certain skater was, I’ll say politically supposed to be the champion, you got a higher score, and rightfully so in most cases.”

Chen has the benefit of going into competitions knowing the kind of advantage he has in base value points from his jumping arsenal. He won last year’s national title by 58 points. This international season, he is 80 points clear of the next-highest-ranked U.S. man, Jason Brown.

“I don’t think that the try-to-push technique is necessarily my goal here,” at nationals, Chen said. “Hopefully just to maintain my body, maintain my health and try to prepare myself for the second half of the season.”

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As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.