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Olympic speed skater, Montana’s only female governor dies

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Judy Martz, a 1964 U.S. Olympic speed skater and Montana’s only female governor, has died.

Martz had been battling pancreatic cancer. She was 74.

Martz died Monday in Butte, said state Attorney General Tim Fox, who is a friend of the family.

“She had a very forceful personality and was a very articulate, very smart person, and it doesn’t surprise me that she would be our first woman governor,” Fox said.

State political leaders, including Gov. Steve Bullock, are expressing sympathy and honoring Martz as a trailblazer for women in Montana.

“While she will always leave her mark in our history as a trailblazer for women, we will also remember the spirited enthusiasm she brought both in her service to Montanans and through her lifelong love for our state,” Bullock said in a statement.

Martz, then Judy Morstein, was 15th in the 1500m at the Innsbruck 1964 Winter Games.

Martz, a Republican, served as governor from 2001 to 2005. She was noted for turning a state deficit into a surplus while reducing taxes and increasing funding for education.

However, her term was besieged by missteps. Her popularity dropped to 20 percent at its low point.

Martz entered politics in 1996 as Gov. Marc Racicot’s running mate. She ran for governor after Racicot was barred from seeking a third term.

Martz faced backlash following a 2001 drunken-driving crash involving her chief policy adviser, Shane Hedges. He was at the wheel of an SUV that went off a mountain road and killed Montana’s House majority leader, who was a passenger. Martz was ridiculed for washing her aide’s clothes shortly after the crash, an act she said was a motherly reaction.

She was also criticized for comments suggesting she did not mind being referred to as a “lap dog” of industry. Her administration came under fire after news reports revealed that some of her staff used state phones to make political fundraising calls.

Martz, who often said she was mistreated by the news media, alluded to her political troubles in making her announcement not to run for re-election in 2003. “Among the difficulties, we have dealt with tragedy and adversity, some self-imposed, some stemming from misperception, and some the result of staff,” she said.

In the years since she left the governor’s office, Martz routinely addressed Christian organizations throughout the country and was part of a network that prays at locations across Montana.

In late 2014, Martz announced through a spokesman that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was treated at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she and her husband, Harry, had a home.

She said at the time that prayers and her deep faith in God would carry her through the difficult time. She thanked people for their prayers.

Martz and her husband raised two children.

Martz graduated from high school in Butte in 1961, was named Miss Rodeo Montana and attended Eastern Montana College.

Martz was a field representative for U.S. Senator Conrad Burns from 1989 to 1995. She also owned and operated a commercial solid-waste business with her husband.

Annemiek van Vleuten wins La Course with epic comeback (video)

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Annemiek van Vleuten, the cyclist who returned from a horrific Rio Olympic road race crash to become world champion, repeated as La Course winner with an epic last-kilometer comeback on Tuesday.

Van Vleuten sprinted from several seconds behind countrywoman Anna van der Breggen to win the one-day race, including four categorized climbs, contested on part of the Tour de France stage 10 course later that day.

“With 300 meters to go, I still thought I got second, and then I saw her dying,” Van Vleuten said, adding later, according to Cyclingnews.com, “With 500 meters to go my team director in the car gave up and stopped cheering for me.”

In Rio, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped over into a ditch during the road race. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course.

She was eventually hospitalized in intensive care.

Van der Breggen went on to win the Olympic title, while van Vleuten returned quick enough to race at the October 2016 World Championships.

Van Vleuten, 35, won her first world title 13 months after the Rio Games, taking the time trial crown ahead of van der Breggen by 12 seconds. She also won the 10-stage Giro Rosa that concluded on Sunday.

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Greg Van Avermaet triples Tour de France lead in first mountain stage

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Belgian Greg Van Avermaet more than tripled his Tour de France overall lead in the first day in the mountains on Tuesday, but Wednesday may be his last day in the yellow jersey.

Julian Alaphilippe became the first Frenchman to win a stage in this year’s Tour, claiming the 10th stage that included three first-category climbs and a beyond-category climb but ended with a descent and the contenders together in the peloton.

Van Avermaet finished fourth, 1:44 behind Alaphilippe. More importantly, Van Avermaet crossed the Grand-Bornand finish line 1:39 ahead of a group that included most of the main contenders to top the podium in Paris on July 29.

The Olympic road race champion increased his overall lead from 43 seconds to 2:22.

Van Avermaet has worn the maillot jaune for a week straight, but he is not a climber, and the biggest test of the Tour thus far is imminent.

“No disrespect, but he’s not going to win the Tour,” said Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas, who is in second place.

The Tour continues with stage 11, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Wednesday (full broadcast schedule here). The 67-mile stage starts in the 1992 Winter Olympic host Albertville and includes two beyond-category climbs. It concludes with a category-one summit at La Rosière.

“Tomorrow’s a climber’s day,” Van Avermaet said. “It will be super hard to keep [the yellow jersey]. … Tomorrow it will be over.”

Chris Froome, eyeing a record-tying fifth Tour de France title, is best placed of the pre-Tour favorites.

Froome is in sixth place and 3:21 behind Van Avermaet. Froome is followed by Spaniard Mikel Landa in the same time and 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali another six seconds back.

Colombian Rigoberto Uran, the 2017 Tour runner-up, finished 2:36 behind the group with Froome, Landa and Nibali.

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