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Lindsey Vonn returns to World Cup, but winning is not priority

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BAD KLEINKIRCHHEIM, Austria (AP) — After a four-week break from racing, Lindsey Vonn is returning to the Alpine skiing World Cup this weekend with an unusual mindset.

For the most successful female skier of all time, Vonn’s main priority at the first speed events of 2018 won’t be winning.

With only 40 days left until her season highlight, the Olympic downhill in PyeongChang, avoiding injuries is all that matters.

“I feel solid but my focus this season is on the Olympics. So I am not going to risk anything this weekend,” Vonn told The Associated Press on Friday after taking part in a shortened training session.

She was worried because the snow on parts of the Karnten-Franz Klammer course was still too weak after heavy rain this week and mild temperatures.

“The top is good, but the bottom is not safe to race,” she said.

Organizers swapped the program for this weekend by pushing back the downhill to Sunday and rescheduling a super-G for Saturday, as a downhill can be staged only after competitors have at least one training run on the entire course.

The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air live coverage of each race at 4:30 and 5 a.m. ET, respectively, on Saturday and Sunday. It will also stream on the Olympic Channel app and OlympicChannel.com.

“I am also not sure why the super-G is first,” Vonn said. “Considering the snow conditions, it would be better to do the downhill first but, again, I don’t know. We haven’t inspected the bottom part of the course so I am not really sure what the reason behind it is.”

Vonn said she would make her own decision about racing or not after checking the course on Saturday, saying she would rather sit it out “if conditions aren’t good enough to run.”

Vonn badly injured her right knee landing in a patch of soft snow during the 2013 World Championships, which ultimately ruled the 2010 Olympic downhill champion out of the Sochi Games the following year.

It explains the 33-year-old American’s cautiousness going into what likely will be her last Olympics.

Her season so far has been rather rough.

Trying to improve her ranking ahead of the Olympic giant slalom, she failed to qualify for the second run of the season-opening GS in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 28.

Focusing on the speed events since, she landed in the safety netting at full speed during the first downhill in Lake Louise on Dec. 1, and finished only 12th in another downhill the next day.

She crashed again in a super-G on the third day of racing at the Canadian resort where she won 18 times in the past.

A week later, she jarred her back in a super-G in St. Moritz, Switzerland, completing the race in pain in 24th place.

Vonn hasn’t raced since Dec. 16 when she earned her 78th career win at a super-G in Val d’Isere, France.

The following day, she took part in the early morning inspection for another super-G at the resort but then decided against racing, citing a sore knee, and flew home.

“The last race in Val d’Isere I skied very well,” she said. “It still wasn’t my best but I had a good block at home in Colorado. I was able to do a lot of condition training and got some GS and slalom in as well.”

Vonn practicing slalom underlined her ambition to start in the Olympic super combined as well.

“I feel good, definitely,” Vonn said, adding the knee was hampering her “not more than usual. I feel decent.”

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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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