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Lindsey Vonn moves up season debut to Saturday

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Lindsey Vonn, who originally planned to make her season debut in December, instead plans to race on Saturday in the World Cup season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria (6:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel).

That’s provided conditions are safe. Watch her announcement here.

“I didn’t race any GS last year because of my [broken] arm injury, but I skied really well this summer in New Zealand,” Vonn said Thursday. “I feel like I’m in good enough shape, and it’s a good opportunity. See what happens.

“The biggest thing this season is staying healthy. So I really don’t want to take any chances. I just want to ski solid. My solid skiing is enough to get in the top 15. That’s all I really need.”

It will mark Vonn’s earliest start to a season since before her recent series of major injuries that began at the February 2013 World Championships, forcing her to miss defending her Olympic downhill title in Sochi.

Vonn originally planned to begin her lead-up to PyeongChang the first weekend of December with speed races (downhill, super-G) at her favorite venue of Lake Louise, Alberta.

Vonn last raced giant slalom Jan. 30, 2016 and last won a GS on Dec. 12, 2015, her only finish better than fifth in a GS since January 2013.

She last raced Soelden, the annual World Cup opener in late October, in 2012. Vonn won Soelden in 2011, but giant slalom is not one of her better disciplines.

“Before I was injured, the season before I won a GS [in 2012], so I know that I can ski well,” Vonn, who owns four career World Cup GS wins, said in April. “It’s just a matter of if I have a healthy prep period I can train it.”

The Soelden favorites are world giant slalom gold and silver medalists Tessa Worley of France and American Mikaela Shiffrin.

Vonn, Shiffrin and German Viktoria Rebensburg are the only women in Saturday’s field who have won Soelden. (Update: Swiss Lara Gut, like Vonn, surprisingly announced she will race Saturday. Gut, a two-time winner in Soelden, is returning from suffering a torn ACL with meniscus damage in February.)

Vonn said in April that she intended to race the giant slalom at her likely final Olympics in February. The Olympic schedule makes it more enticing.

The women’s technical events of giant slalom and slalom are in the first week of the PyeongChang Winter Games. The downhill and super-G are in the second week.

“It’s going to be good for me to get over there early, get settled in, get one race under my belt,” Vonn said in April.

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MORE: Vonn’s top downhill rival likely out of Olympics

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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