Olympic champion takes Tour de France yellow jersey in team time trial

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CHOLET, France (AP) — Chris Froome’s Team Sky came up four seconds short of winning the team time trial in the third stage of the Tour de France on Monday, as Greg Van Avermaet of victorious BMC claimed the yellow jersey.

BMC, led by Australian hope Richie Porte, clocked 38 minutes, 46 seconds over the 22-mile route that began and ended in Cholet near the Atlantic coast.

Sky finished second and Quick-Step Floors came third, seven seconds behind. World champion Sunweb featuring Tom Dumoulin finished fifth, 11 seconds back.

Former leader Peter Sagan was dropped by his Bora-Hansgrohe teammates and fell to 80th overall, three minutes behind.

Van Avermaet, a Belgian who excels at single-day classics and won the Rio Olympic road race, isn’t a threat for the overall title but he could keep the lead through the cobblestoned Stage 9 ending in Roubaix.

Froome was left 55 seconds behind in the overall standings with another week of nervy rolling stages before hitting the Alps.

“It’s a good time,” said Froome, who dropped 51 seconds following a crash in Stage 1. “There are a lot of other good teams. As I’ve said from the start, the legs are good. It was a good test for us and the team. I’m very happy with the other riders.”

The Tour de France continues Tuesday with a mostly flat 121-mile stage four, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

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

Van Avermaet earned the yellow jersey by leading BMC over the line, just ahead of American teammate Tejay van Garderen, who moved up to second overall, with the same time as Van Avermaet. Van Garderen nearly became the second (or sixth) American to wear the yellow jersey.

Geraint Thomas of Sky was third overall, three seconds behind.

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Squad leaders traded turns on the front of the team “trains,” with the ability to constantly maintain a fast pace the decisive factor over a challenging — if not highly technical — route featuring a few minor hills.

Times were taken from the fourth rider on each eight-man team to cross the line.

BMC, which is searching for a new title sponsor, also won the previous team time trial on the Tour in 2015.

“I don’t think it is a bad thing to have the yellow jersey for a team looking for a sponsor,” said Porte, who crashed out of last year’s Tour and lost time in Stage 1 of this edition.

“I feel maybe even better (than last year),” Porte said. “It wasn’t ideal to throw 51 seconds away but we have taken some good time back on some of the other GC (general classification) guys today. It’s a long way to go, we still have six more hectic days and then we have also got the Alps and the Pyrenees.”

“Today, we just handled business,” said Van Garderen, who has twice finished in the top five at the Tour but is riding this edition in a declared supporting role for Porte.

“Right now it is more about chest-thumping and psychological advantages. It just shows that we are here, too, and let’s get it on.”

Van Avermaet also wore the yellow jersey for three days on the 2016 Tour.

The only individual time trial of the race comes in the penultimate stage, over a 31-kilometer route from Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle to Espelette in the Basque country.

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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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