Peter Sagan wins Tour de France stage 2 by a nose (video)

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LA ROCHE-SUR-YON, France (AP) — World champion Peter Sagan won a sprint finish to claim the second stage of the Tour de France and the race’s overall lead on Sunday, while Chris Froome had a calmer ride after his tumble in the first leg.

Sagan won the mostly flat 113.4-mile leg from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to the department capital of La Roche-sur-Yon in just over four hours. The Slovakian rider for Bora-Hansgrohe edged Sonny Colbrelli at the finish line after a short uphill push.

“It was really a hard sprint,” Sagan said. “It was climbing a little bit in a headwind and already the last five kilometers were up and down. It was a mess.”

Sagan, the three-time reigning world champion, came up short in the opening stage’s sprint when he crossed second behind Fernando Gaviria, who won on his Tour debut.

The second stage looked like it would feature another duel between the veteran Sagan and new star Gaviria.

But Gaviria was involved in a group pileup inside the three-kilometer zone that neutralizes the impact of accidents and could do nothing to stop Sagan from claiming a six-second overall lead and the yellow jersey.

Sagan powered to the front of a group of about a dozen sprinters hunting the victory, reaching a speed of 57.6 kph on the final 500 meters on his way to the finish line. With Colbrelli about to catch him, Sagan thrust forward to ensure victory.

“It’s a perfect day,” Sagan said. “I was a bit scared because Sonny was coming back strong.”

The Tour de France continues Monday with a team time trial, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

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A year ago, Sagan was kicked out of the Tour after race organizers ruled he caused a crash that broke the shoulder blade of Mark Cavendish in a sprint finish to end Stage 4.

The 28-year-old Sagan said this win means that “I’m really back” following his disqualification from the 2017 Tour.

It was his ninth career win at cycling’s biggest event.

Froome, who fell into a ditch near the end of Saturday’s opening stage, arrived safely with most of the peloton.

Froome is 1:07 behind Sagan’s leading time as he pursues a fifth Tour title. Despite being cleared of doping allegations on Monday, some skeptical fans have jeered the Kenyan-born British rider since his Sky team arrived in France.

The Tour remains in western France for Stage 3 on Monday with its first team time trial since 2015. The 35.5-kilometer loop starts and finishes in Cholet.

Title contenders Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin and Romain Bardet are 16 seconds behind Sagan, giving them an early advantage over Froome.

BMC’s Richie Porte is level with Froome with their respective teams looking to do well on the team time trial.

Two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana is 1:31 back after he lost time following the puncture of both his tires near the end of Stage 1.

After the first stage that hugged the Atlantic coast, the race rolled inland through green pastures, forest groves and yellow wheat fields baked by the summer sun.

Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Dion Smith (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo) set off on a breakaway after the start, but the 39-year-old Chavanel soon shed the other two in his record 18th Tour participation.

Chavanel, who has said this will be his last Tour, soaked up applause from French fans on his solo run, and he even had time to raise his arms in celebration as he passed through the crowds that lined the road midway through the stage. He was absorbed by the peloton with 13K left.

Ethiopia’s Tsgabu Grmay became the first rider to abandon the race. His Trek-Segafredo team said he was suffering “intense abdominal pain.”

Astana climber Luis Leon Sanchez later called it quits after he fell and bloodied his left arm.

The three-week Tour ends July 29 in Paris.

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Mo Farah focused on Chicago Marathon defense, not ruling out 10,000m double

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Mo Farah said all of his training focus is on defending his Chicago Marathon title on Oct. 13, but the British star also said Tuesday that he can wait until “the last minute” to change his mind and also enter the world championships 10,000m on Oct. 6.

“I am a reigning world champion, so I do get an automatic spot anyway,” Farah said of the 10,000m, where he is a three-time reigning world champion.

Farah transitioned to road racing after the 2017 season and was thought to be done with major track championships. Farah was the distance king for more than a half-decade, sweeping the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

Farah said Tuesday that he didn’t know what the deadline would be to enter the world championships 10,000m.

“I really don’t know. I think the last minute,” he said. “As I said, I get an automatic spot anyway. I don’t know. My main target is to defend my [marathon] title, come out to Chicago. All the training is geared toward the marathon.”

An IAAF spokesperson said Farah must be entered as part of the British team by Sept. 16 to be eligible for worlds.

British Athletics said Wednesday that its team will be selected Sept. 2.

“Should Mo wish to race the 10,000m in Doha, he would need to advise the selection panel prior to this date,” a spokesperson said.

Farah enticed his followers about the 10,000m in a July 27 Instagram with the hashtag #doha10k, referencing the site of world championships in Qatar. Farah was asked Tuesday why he included the hashtag.

“Anything is possible,” he said. “I’m a reigning champion. I get an automatic spot. There’s nothing I have to do. I just thought why not?”

It’s not an unprecedented type of move to race a 10,000m one week before a marathon. Former training partner Galen Rupp placed fifth in the 2016 Olympic 10,000m on Aug. 13, then took bronze in the marathon on Aug. 21.

Farah said he hasn’t set any major racing plans beyond Chicago. He finished what he called a disappointing fifth in the London Marathon in 2:05.39 on April 28, three minutes behind winner Eliud Kipchoge. Farah said a satisfying result in Chicago would be a win above worrying about a specific time. The last man to repeat as Chicago champ was Kenyan Sammy Wanjiru in 2010.

The 2020 London Marathon is three and a half months before the Tokyo Olympic marathon, a tight turnaround.

“I think I can get back in form for the London Marathon before the Olympics, and then the Olympics, I guess, but I haven’t decided,” Farah said. “My main target now is just Chicago, then work from there.”

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Race Imboden, Gwen Berry get probation for Pan Am Games podium protests

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DENVER (AP) — The letter went to the two protesters. The message was meant for a much wider audience.

The CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee sent letters of reprimand to hammer thrower Gwen Berry and fencer Race Imboden for protesting on the medals stand last week at the Pan American Games, but the 12-month probations that came with the letters also included a none-too-subtle signal for anyone vying for next year’s Olympics.

“It is also important for me to point out that, going forward, issuing a reprimand to other athletes in a similar instance is insufficient,” Sarah Hirshland wrote in the letters sent Tuesday. The Associated Press obtained copies of the documents.

Neither Berry’s raised fist nor Imboden’s kneel-down on the Pan Am medals stand were met with immediate consequences, in part because they happened at the tail end of the Games that were wrapping up in Lima, Peru.

Hirshland’s letter was as clear a sign as possible that athletes who try the same next year in Tokyo could face a different reaction.

It’s the IOC’s role to discipline athletes who break rules that forbid political protest at the Olympics — much the way the IOC triggered the ouster of John Carlos and Tommie Smith after their iconic protest in 1968 — though national federations can get into the mix, too. Before going to the Olympics, athletes sign forms stating they’re aware of the rules and won’t break them.

“We recognize that we must more clearly define for Team USA athletes what a breach of these rules will mean in the future,” Hirshland wrote. “Working with the (athletes and national governing body councils), we are committed to more explicitly defining what the consequences will be for members of Team USA who protest at future Games.”

Neither athlete immediately returned messages sent to them by AP via their social media accounts and agents.

Both will be eligible for the Olympics next summer, when the United States will be in the heat of a presidential campaign.

In a tweet sent shortly after his team’s medals ceremony at the Pan Am Games, Imboden said: “Racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list” of issues that need to be addressed.

Berry said she was protesting social injustice in America, and that it was “too important to not say something.”

Hirshland said she respected the perspectives of the athletes and would work with the IOC “to engage on a global discussion on these matters.”

“However, we can’t ignore the rules or the reasons they exist,” she wrote.

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