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U.S. bobsled caps strong World Cup opener with victory

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Codie Bascue learned plenty about driving from Steven Holcomb in their years together on the U.S. bobsled team.

And now he’s a winner in Lake Placid — just like Holcomb.

Bascue, who had no medals in his first three years on the World Cup bobsled circuit, finished a spectacular opening weekend to this season with a gold medal in the two-man race Friday at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

It completed a two-medals-in-two-days start to the year for Bascue, who reached a World Cup podium for the first time with a bronze Thursday.

“Today was for Holcomb,” said ex-Michigan and Rice running back Sam McGuffie, who pushed for Bascue. “We have his name in the back seat of our sled. … It’s really special.”

Bascue and McGuffie had the fastest runs in each heat, finishing the two runs in 1 minute, 51.73 seconds. Justin Kripps and Alexander Kopacz of Canada were second in 1:51.84, and Justin Olsen and Evan Weinstock of the U.S. took third in 1:52.13.

This was a strong first weekend for the U.S. bobsled team, which took five of a possible nine medals — one gold, two silvers and two bronzes — from the pair of two-man races and the women’s race in Lake Placid.

Bascue is the first American other than Holcomb to win a World Cup race since 2009, when John Napier prevailed in Lake Placid.

Holcomb had given the U.S. men each of their last 19 World Cup golds, including last year in Lake Placid with McGuffie in his sled.

“I’m really proud of Codie,” said U.S. driver Nick Cunningham, who was fourth. “He had Holcomb on his mind all week. Olsen came through in the clutch as well. Overall it was a really great weekend for Team USA.”

Holcomb, the longtime leader of the U.S. bobsled program, died unexpectedly in his sleep in May.

There were two two-man races in Lake Placid because of a ruling earlier in the week about ice conditions.

To make up for that, there will be two four-man competitions in Park City, Utah, next weekend when the World Cup tour resumes.

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MORE: U.S. bobsledders remember Steven Holcomb as Olympic season starts

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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