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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Yevgenia Medvedeva leads after short program at Autumn Classic

Yevgenia Medvedeva
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Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva leads after Thursday’s short program at her season opener, the Autumn Classic International. In her first competition since moving to Toronto to train under Brian Orser, Medvedeva scored 70.89 points.

Olympic team event bronze medalist Bradie Tennell sits in second place heading into Friday’s free skate with 69.26 points. Tennell, the reigning U.S. national champion, was joined by countrywoman Starr Andrews in Ontario. Andrews scored 56.70 points and finished fifth in the short program.

France’s Mae Berenice Meite rounds out the top three with 58.23 points.

Earlier on Thursday, Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres from France scored 73.81 points to build their lead over the pairs’ field. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro from Canada were second with 64.73 points, followed by the two American teams: Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier (61.91) and Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson (50.25), who competed internationally as new partners for the first time.

Competition at the Autumn Classic continues this weekend. Friday features the rhythm dance, men’s short program, and the pairs’ and ladies’ free skates. Saturday concludes competition with the free dance and men’s free skate. The event will stream live on Skate Canada’s Dailymotion page.

Elsewhere in the world of figure skating this weekend, Rika Kihira took the ladies’ short program at the Nepela Trophy in Bratislava. The reigning world junior champion attempted her triple Axel to open her “Clair de Lune” program but fell and was awarded -5 Grades of Execution across the board. She tallied 70.79 points and leads Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva by just 0.8 points. Russian Stanislava Konstantinova is third with 65.03 points.

Russian men lead the field after the short program in Bratislava. Mikhail Kolyada scored 96.82 points while Sergei Voronov earned 81.77 points. Japan’s Keiji Tanaka currently sits third with 77.53 points.

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc have a three-point lead on the pairs’ field after the short program with 65.68 points. Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay, the other Americans in the field, are third with 59.60 points in their first competition of the season.

Competition continues at the Nepela Trophy this weekend with the rhythm dance and pairs’ free skate on Friday and the ladies’ free skate, free dance, and men’s free skate on Saturday.

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Despite protests, Russias anti-doping agency reinstated

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The World Anti-Doping Agency declared Russia’s scandal-ridden drug-fighting operation back in business Thursday, a decision designed to bring a close to one of sports’ most notorious doping scandals but one bitterly disputed by hundreds of athletes and described as “treachery” by the lawyer for the man who exposed the corruption.

On a 9-2 vote, the executive committee took the advice of the agency’s compliance review panel and declared RUSADA as having satisfied conditions of reinstatement that were gradually softened over the summer.

In most tangible ways, the decision doesn’t change much: RUSADA has been up and running for a while, bringing one of the world’s largest testing programs back on line with the help of officials from Britain and elsewhere. And Russia’s Olympic committee was brought back into the fold after the Pyeongchang Olympics, where athletes who could prove they were clean were able to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

But RUSADA’s reinstatement now clears the country to again bid for major international events — although soccer’s World Cup was held there this summer despite that restriction.

It also clears a major hurdle for Russia’s track team to be declared compliant by that sport’s international governing body, one of the few to take a strong, consistent stand against doping.

Perhaps most importantly, hundreds of athletes and dozens of world anti-doping leaders see it as a stinging rebuke to the ideal of fair play.

“WADA’s decision to reinstate Russia represents the greatest treachery against clean athletes in Olympic history,” said Jim Walden, the attorney for Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow lab director who exposed much of the Russian scheme.

WADA had been telegraphing the move since Sept. 14, when it released the recommendation of its compliance review committee. Olympic champion Beckie Scott resigned from that committee afterward.

“I’m profoundly disappointed,” Scott said to Canadian broadcaster CBC after the decision. “I feel this was an opportunity for WADA, and they have dealt a devastating blow to clean sport. I’m quite dismayed.”

Even in Russia, where the news was welcomed, it came with a sense that there’s still work to be done.

“These questions will always follow us,” said RUSADA CEO Yuri Ganus, whose appointment to the job was part of the housecleaning at the agency that WADA demanded. “These aren’t the kind of skeletons which can lie unnoticed in the closet. These are the skeletons which will be banging on the closet door all the time.”

The two biggest roadblocks to RUSADA’s reinstatement involved the country accepting findings from a report by investigator Richard McLaren that concluded the government had engineered the doping scandal to win medals at the Sochi Olympics. It also involved Russia agreeing to hand over a trove of data and samples that could be used to corroborate potential doping violations that stemmed from the cheating.

Over a summer’s worth of correspondence between WADA leaders and Russia’s sports minister about how to bridge the gap, a pattern emerged of WADA backing down from its initial requirements and, at one point, essentially asking Russia what it would be willing to say in a letter designed to satisfy the WADA review committee.

“We think that a small addition to the letter, if acceptable to you, could ensure that the letter is well received … and that a positive recommendation is provided,” WADA CEO Olivier Niggli wrote to sports minister Pavel Kolobkov in May in a letter obtained by BBC Sport .

In the end, Russia agreed to accept findings of an IOC-commissioned report that put less onus on the Russian government for the scheme, a move that Rodchenkov said earlier this week was done “for the pure purpose of protecting their top-level apparatchiks who destroyed the Olympic Games in Sochi.”

Russia also agreed to hand over the samples and data by Dec. 31. If it does not, RUSADA will again be declared noncompliant.

“Without this pragmatic approach, we would continue with the impasse and the laboratory data could have remained out of our reach indefinitely,” WADA president Craig Reedie said after Thursday’s executive committee meeting in Seychelles.

Critics said reinstating RUSADA before obtaining the data only amounts to accepting another promise from a country that hasn’t kept many over the five-year course of the scandal.

Travis Tygart, the CEO for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision “bewildering and inexplicable,” and urged a full revamping of WADA; Reedie also serves as a member of the IOC, which is one of the many conflicts of interest that bother critics of the agency.

“Let’s be clear: Absolutely nothing will be off the table for how we, the anti-doping community, begin the work of reforming WADA,” Tygart said.

Reedie said “WADA understands that this decision will not please everybody.”

“Clean athletes were denied places at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as other major events, and others were cheated of medals,” he said. “It is entirely understandable that they should be wary about the supposed rehabilitation of offenders.”