Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn top women’s Alpine skiing season storylines

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Three storylines for the Olympic women’s Alpine skiing season ahead of Saturday’s World Cup opener in Soelden, Austria …

1. Second time would be sweeter for Mikaela Shiffrin

Shiffrin certainly deserved last year’s World Cup overall title, awarded to the skier who accumulates the most points across all disciplines, but she was quoted in Austrian media this month intimating that it wasn’t wholly fulfilling.

That’s because the previous overall winners — Swiss Lara Gut, Austrian Anna VeithLindsey Vonn and Slovenian Tina Maze — all raced partial seasons, largely due to injuries. In Maze’s case, it was a single farewell race into retirement.

Shiffrin’s hope for stronger competition this season is already dented. Gut and Veith are sitting out Saturday’s opener. They’re targeting returns from last winter’s knee surgeries in late November or early December.

(Update: Gut surprisingly announced she will race Saturday in an early return from tearing an ACL and suffering meniscus damage in February.)

Vonn plans to race in October for the first time in five years, but she downplayed overall title aspirations in recent seasons. The 33-year-old emphasized quality over quantity in limiting her race schedule, chasing the career World Cup wins record by focusing on downhills and super-Gs.

Then on Sunday, Slovenian Ilka Stuhec, the surprise runner-up to Shiffrin last season, suffered a torn ACL that will likely keep her out the entire year.

Italian Sofia Goggia, who made her first World Cup podium last season (and then 12 more), may be the most promising challenger.

MORE: Shiffrin chases higher goals as second Olympics approach

2. Lindsey Vonn’s eight-year wait

Incredibly after all of her injuries, Vonn is arguably the Olympic downhill favorite at the moment with world downhill champ Stuhec’s ACL tear.

This season is all about the Olympics for Vonn, who spent the previous two seasons chasing (when healthy) something else — the Word Cup wins record.

She managed to reach 77, nine shy of retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s total. Vonn is capable of breaking the record this season (she won nine races in 2015-16 and eight in 2014-15), but that would be cake icing at this point. She plans to go after Stenmark in 2018-19.

Vonn can set a bunch of age records this season, including oldest female World Cup downhill race winner and oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist.

But most of all she will be motivated by having to watch the Sochi Games on TV, unable to defend her emotional downhill title from 2010.

MORE: Vonn’s bid to race men delayed

3. Comebacks, comebacks, comebacks

Other than Shiffrin and Vonn, just about every big name is a question mark because of major injuries. We mentioned Gut and Veith, but also Julia Mancuso.

Mancuso, who owns four Olympic medals, last raced March 2015. She missed the last two seasons due to hip problems but is expected to finally return the first week of December.

Mancuso has an acumen for turning it on for the Olympics — she made the podium in 2006, 2010 and 2014 with scant World Cup success those seasons.

Shiffrin’s closest slalom challenger last season — Slovak Veronika Velez Zuzulova — underwent right knee surgery in September that could keep the 33-year-old out until December.

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MORE: Mancuso narrows focus in comeback

Richie Porte crashes out of Tour de France again

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Australian Richie Porte crashed out of the Tour de France on the ninth stage for a second straight year, suffering a fractured right clavicle six miles into Sunday’s stage.

“Obviously I’m devastated,” Porte said, according to Team BMC. “For the second year in a row I am ending the Tour de France like this. I was on the ground before I knew it, and straight away felt pain in my right shoulder.”

Porte, who finished fifth in the 2016 Tour de France and was an overall podium contender these last two years, was seen sitting on the side of the road, gritting his teeth and crossing his right arm over his chest.

There was a mass stoppage of riders, with at least one spectator down on the side of the narrow road. The crash came well before the Tour stage was to hit 15 arduous cobblestone sections totaling 13 miles.

Porte was in 10th place after eight stages, 57 seconds behind race leader and BMC teammate Greg Van Avermaet. Avermaet and American Tejay van Garderen, in third place, were expected to work for Porte in the mountains later this week, hoping to put him in the yellow jersey.

Now, Van Garderen is in line to be the team leader.

In 2017, Porte fractured his clavicle and pelvis on a ninth-stage crash on a descent and had to abandon the Tour.

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Chris Froome, other stars crash on Tour de France cobblestones stage

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Richie PorteTejay van GarderenRigoberto UranMikel Landa. Even Chris Froome.

Stage nine of the Tour de France promised to rattle the top riders, and the 15 sections of cobblestones totaling 13 miles delivered just that. All of the named men crashed on Sunday, with Porte abandoning the Grand Tour altogether (albeit he crashed before the first cobbles section, six miles into the stage).

In the end, German John Degenkolb got the stage win ahead of overall race leader Greg Van Avermaet and Yves Lampaert.

Van Avermaet, the Olympic road race champion from Belgium, retained the yellow jersey for a sixth straight day, extending his lead to 43 seconds over Brit Geraint Thomas. Van Avermaet rides for Team BMC, which lost its team leader in Porte.

American van Garderen presumably became the new team leader, but he crashed later in the stage and also suffered three flat tires.

Van Garderen entered the day third in the overall standings, nine seconds behind Van Avermaet. He ended it in 30th place, 6:05 behind Van Avermaet.

The best-placed favorite to finish on the podium in Paris on July 29 is now the four-time Tour winner Froome, in eighth place, 1:42 behind Van Avermaet. Froome is trying to tie the record of five Tour titles shared by Jacques AnquetilEddy MerckxBernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

The Tour takes its first of two rest days Monday, resuming with the first day in the Alps on Tuesday live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here). Stage 10 features a beyond-category climb and three category-one climbs.

“I’m relieved to get through today and looking forward to getting into the mountains now where the real race for GC (general classification) will start,” Froome said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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