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Felix Neureuther wins season-opening World Cup slalom

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LEVI, Finland (AP) — Felix Neureuther of Germany won the season-opening men’s World Cup slalom on Sunday after first-run leader Dave Ryding skied out.

Aiming to become the first British skier to win a race in the 50-year-history of the Alpine skiing World Cup, Ryding put in a dominant performance.

He led second-place Neureuther by 0.14 seconds after the opening leg and stretched his advantage to 0.51 in the final run before a mistake threw him off the course. He lay on his back in the snow for several seconds before getting up and skiing down.

It was the second time that Ryding came close to a World Cup triumph. He also led after the first run of the slalom in Kitzbuehel in January before finishing runner-up to Marcel Hirscher.

Ryding, who turns 31 next month, enjoyed his breakthrough on the World Cup last season, four years after winning the slalom title of the lower-tier Europa Cup circuit.

“I have been very lucky that Dave went out. He was extremely fast,” Neureuther said after finishing in a combined time of 1 minute, 42.83 seconds to beat Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway by 0.37 and Mattias Hargin of Sweden by 0.45.

“Winning my first race being a father makes it even more special,” said Neureuther, whose partner Miriam Goessner, a professional biathlete and cross-country skier, gave birth to daughter Matilda last month.

It was Neureuther’s 13th career victory but first since winning a slalom in Yuzawa Naeba, Japan, in January 2016. The 33-year-old German has been hindered by persistent back problems in recent seasons.

Hirscher was 1.32 behind in 17th spot in an unexpected appearance just 87 days after breaking his left ankle. The Austrian six-time overall champion only resumed training earlier this week.

Hirscher’s mishap occurred in August on his first day back on snow in the offseason. He was back on skis in early October but was forced to take another four weeks off because his ankle was still hurting too much.

“The first run was super, that went sensationally well,” said the Austrian, who was in fourth spot after the opening leg before several mistakes on the final run cost him.

“In the end I hoped for a better result,” Hirscher said. “But I have a lot of motivation to get my speed back. Today showed me that at the moment I am still lacking the class of the other guys.”

The race in Finnish Lapland was the first of the Olympic season after a giant slalom in Austria was canceled because of bad weather two weeks ago.

The men’s World Cup continues with speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Nov. 25-26.

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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