Chris Froome crashes as Colombian wins Tour de France stage 1 (video)

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FONTENAY-LE-COMTE, France (AP) — Chris Froome tumbled off the road into a grassy field in the opening stage of the Tour de France on Saturday, immediately putting his pursuit of a record-tying fifth title in peril.

With grass stains on his right shoulder and back, Froome got back up and crossed 51 seconds behind Fernando Gaviria, the Colombian who claimed the race’s first yellow jersey with a commanding sprint victory.

“I saw a lot of crashes out there today. It’s just one of those things. We always knew the first few days were going to be tricky and going to be sketchy. It’s part of the game unfortunately,” said Froome, who went down with about 5 kilometers to go as the sprinters’ teams jockeyed for position.

“I’m just grateful I’m not injured in any way and there’s a lot of road to cover before Paris obviously.”

The 105th Tour de France continues with stage two, 114 miles, circular and flat, on Sunday, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

When fans at the finish were informed of Froome’s crash, many cheered. The Team Sky rider, who was cleared of doping in an asthma drug case on Monday, was also jeered at Thursday’s team presentations.

Fellow overall contenders Richie Porte and Adam Yates were also caught behind in the Froome group. And in what was expected to be a calm day for the favorites, two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana lost 1:10 due to a tire puncture.

The pre-race favorites who finished safely with the main pack included 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin, Geraint Thomas, Mikel Landa, Alejandro Valverde and Dan Martin.

Gaviria, the Quick Step rider making his Tour debut, easily beat world champion Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel to the line.

“The yellow jersey is one that everyone dreams of wearing and to get it on the first day is amazing,” Gaviria said. “We had a clear plan and we’re happy because we pulled it off.”

Gaviria required 4 hours, 23 minutes to complete the mostly flat 125-mile stage from the island of Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile on the Atlantic coast to Fontenay-le-Comte.

He became the first rider to win the opening stage on his Tour debut since Fabian Cancellara took a prologue in 2004. David Zabriskie also won a prologue on debut in 2005 but was later stripped of the victory for admitting to doping.

The 23-year-old Gaviria won four stages in last year’s Giro d’Italia and is living up to his billing as the next big thing in sprinting.

Froome was fortunate he didn’t do more damage by avoiding a post near where he fell while riding at more than 50 kph. The Kenyan-born British rider also crashed on the opening day of the Giro d’Italia in May, while warming up for the Stage 1 time trial. But Froome eventually climbed back up the standings to win the Giro — his third straight Grand Tour title.

Froome is aiming to join Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain as the only riders to win the Tour five times.

Accounting for time bonuses in the overall standings, Froome trails Gaviria by 1:01.

Fans came out in large numbers for the 105th edition of cycling’s biggest race, standing along nearly every stretch of the route and waving the red and white flags of the Vendee region.

For much of the stage, the route hugged the coastline alongside sparkling waters, pristine beaches and an abundance of salt marshes.

Three French riders — Kevin Ledanois (Team Fortuneo-Samsic), Jerome Cousin (Direct Energie) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) — attacked at the start flag and quickly established an advantage of more than a minute.

Cousin and Offredo, the last remnants of the breakaway, were caught by the main pack with 10 kilometers to go.

Lawson Craddock, one of five Americans in the race, crashed in a feeding zone midway through the stage and continued with blood streaming down his face.

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Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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