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Without Bolt, a new 200 world champ will take crown for first time since 2007

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LONDON (AP) Usain Bolt will surrender another world title. This one, without even taking the track.

The Jamaican great is skipping the 200 meters at the world championships, bringing an end to his string of four straight titles in his favorite event.

This was planned. The loss to Justin Gatlin – along with up-and-coming sprinter Christian Coleman – in the 100 meters? Not so much.

So far, Bolt’s farewell tour in London hasn’t exactly going according to design, and he’ll be only a spectator when the heats of the 200 begin Monday. He still has the 4×100 relay at the end of the meet.

“I’m just disappointed I couldn’t do better for (the fans), but that’s how it goes sometimes,” Bolt said after his bronze-medal finish on Saturday. “The support has been outstanding throughout the years.”

With no Bolt, the 200 is wide open for the first time since, well, Tyson Gay, held off a rising Bolt at the 2007 worlds in Osaka, Japan.

Waiting in the wings is Wayde van Niekerk, the South African who is currently the world and Olympic 400-meter champion. He’s one of the favorites in the 200 as well. The semifinals are on Wednesday and the final is Thursday.

Like Van Niekerk, Isaac Makwala of Botswana is trying his hand at the 200-400 double. He has the top time in the 200 this season and a healthy amount of respect for Van Niekerk.

“Wayde van Niekerk is my brother. We want to conquer the world together and make the final for Africa,” Makwala said. “He is so friendly and a lovely guy.”

MORE: Tori Bowie wins 100 meters by .01

A look at the events from Day 4 of the world championships:

SLAM DUNK: Polish hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk‘s best toss this season is more than 6 meters (20 feet) better than anyone else. The two-time Olympic champion will be the overwhelming favorite to defend her world title.

OF MERRITT: Aries Merritt is one of the feel-good stories of the championships. He won a bronze medal in the 110-meter hurdles with a failing kidney in 2015. Now, with a functioning kidney thanks to a transplant from his sister, Merritt is back in the final. Another hurdler earning a lane is reigning champion Sergey Shubenkov, the Russian who’s competing as an independent with his country’s team suspended because of a doping scandal. “It will be an interesting final,” Merritt said.

HOP, SKIP & JUMP: Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia almost never loses in the triple jump. She’s looking for her third straight world title against a field that includes Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela. Ibarguen edged Rojas for gold at the Olympics in Brazil.

FOUR LAPS: Olympic 800-meter champion Caster Semenya of South Africa stepped up to the 1,500 meters and will be a contender for a medal. She’s been embroiled in the controversial debate in track and field over women with very high levels of testosterone being allowed to compete. Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia is the defending champion in the event.

TAYLOR MADE: American triple jumper Christian Taylor begins his quest for a third straight world title. He’s focused on breaking the world record of 18.29 meters (just over 60 feet), set by Jonathan Edwards of Britain in 1995. Taylor’s top mark is 18.21 (59-9). Should he ever achieve that, Taylor hinted he might switch over to the 400 meters. “I love the 400,” Taylor said. “I would just run with pure joy then, knowing that everything on my bucket list was really ticked off.”

MORE: Men’s marathon | Women’s marathon

Simone Biles, her name sparkling, extends 6-year win streak

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Simone Biles has long stood out for her gymnastics, but on Saturday she competed with her last name sparkling in silver beads on her World Champions Centre leotard for the first time. The gym’s other athletes had “WCC” on the back.

Biles lived up to the billing, extending her six-year win streak to 19 straight all-arounds, capturing the U.S. Classic, a tune-up for next month’s U.S. Championships.

Biles, the four-time Rio Olympic champion, scored 60 points in Louisville at the meet where she made her comeback last year after nearly two years off from competition. She prevailed by a comfortable 2.1 points over Riley McCusker, her largest margin of victory of her four U.S. Classic titles.

“I’m very satisfied,” she said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I’m a little sad that I went out of bounds on floor [exercise], but overall I feel like there are improvements to be made.”

Full results are here.

Biles is prepping for nationals in Kansas City in three weeks, when she eyes a sixth U.S. all-around title to tie Clara Schroth Lomady‘s record from the AAU era in the 1940s and ’50s.

Then come the world championships in October in Stuttgart, Germany. Biles could win a fifth all-around to move one shy of Kohei Uchimura‘s record.

The world’s other top gymnasts may be her countrywomen.

Biles was outscored on balance beam on Saturday by 2018 World teammates Kara Eaker and McCusker and beaten on uneven bars by 2017 World all-around champion Morgan HurdSunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and McCusker. Biles swept all the gold medals at last year’s nationals.

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MORE: USA Gymnastics revamps Safe Sport policy amid abuse scandal

Geraint Thomas struggles; Julian Alaphilippe ups Tour de France lead

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LA MONGIE, France (AP) — When the team of Geraint Thomas was in its pomp at the Tour de France, a time trial followed by a big mountain stage would have been playgrounds for Sky — now in new colors as Ineos — to take cycling’s greatest race by the scruff of the neck and leave everyone else fighting for second place.

Not this year.

Thomas, the defending champion, cracked on Saturday on the Tour’s first encounter with a climb to above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), exposing unprecedented weaknesses in his team that has won six Tours in the past seven years.

The time trial on Friday and the climb up to the legendary Tourmalet pass on Saturday seemed primed for Thomas to reel in Julian Alaphilippe, the yellow jersey-holder from France who is setting the Tour alight with his punchy riding and determination to keep the race lead, filling French fans’ heads with dreams of a first homegrown winner since 1985.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

But instead, Thomas has seen Alaphilippe only get further and further away. In two days, the Frenchman has put 50 seconds of extra daylight between him and the Welshman. His lead — up to 2 minutes, 2 seconds — is becoming large enough to start realistically envisioning Alaphilippe in yellow in Paris next weekend as the first French winner since Bernard Hinault.

Fueling the ecstasy of delirious crowds that lined Saturday’s steep uphill finish, French rider Thibaut Pinot won Stage 14, putting him back in the picture to fight for the podium after he lost mountains of time on Stage 10.

Thomas rightly pointed out that the Tour is far from done, with six more ascents to above 2,000 meters still to come.

But his inability to stay with Pinot, Alaphilippe and other title contenders at the top of the Tourmalet — he was eighth, 36 seconds behind Pinot — was a mini-earthquake for the Tour dominated by his British team since 2012 — with champions Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and, in 2018, Thomas.

“Not the best day. I just didn’t feel quite on it from the start. I was quite weak,” Thomas said.

“At the end I knew I just had to pace it. I didn’t really attempt to follow when they kicked. I just thought I should ride my own pace rather than follow them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end. It’s disappointing. I just tried to limit the damage.”

Having taken cycling to a new level since 2012 with its vast budget and attention to the minutest of details, the team run by David Brailsford has been hit both by misfortune and by the inevitability that, eventually, other teams would start to close the gap.

A horror crash in training for four-time winner Froome, now recovering from career-threatening broken bones, robbed the team of its ace. Thomas’ own preparations were hampered by a crash at the Tour of Switzerland last month.

And Egan Bernal, being groomed by Brailsford to succeed Froome and Thomas, looks increasingly unable to compete for the title this year. Bernal was fifth on the Tourmalet and is fourth overall, 3 minutes behind Alaphilippe.

Pinot, now sixth overall and 3:12 behind Alaphilippe, is showing remarkable grit in bouncing back from his Stage 10 misfortune, when he was part of a group that got separated from other title contenders in crosswinds.

“I have this rage inside me, because in my opinion it was an injustice,” said Pinot, a podium finisher in 2014.

“Since the start of the Tour I had this stage in the back of my mind. The Tourmalet, it’s mythical,” said Pinot, who has three career stage wins at the Tour.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on hand at the top of the Tourmalet to see Pinot win and Alaphilippe extend his lead, gushed about the “two fantastic riders.”

“They attack and they have heart,” Macron said.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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