Dan Martin wins Tour de France stage 6; contenders lose time

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Ireland’s Dan Martin won the Tour de France’s sixth stage, while overall contenders Romain Bardet and Tom Dumoulin lost time in the final miles due to mechanical issues on Thursday.

Martin, who placed sixth in the 2017 Tour, held off Frenchman Pierre Latour for the stage victory by one second, with Spaniard Alejandro Valverde in third.

Belgian Greg Van Avermaet extended his overall race lead from two to three seconds, with Great Britain’s Geraint Thomas overtaking American Tejay van Garderen for second place.

TOUR DE FRANCE: StandingsTV Schedule | Riders to Watch

Van Avermaet, the Rio Olympic road race champion, is expected to cede the yellow jersey by the end of next week, when the three-week tour tackles cobblestones and the Alps.

He hopes BMC teammate Richie Porte will take it over. Porte finished with 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali on Thursday, three seconds behind Martin.

Four-time Tour winner Chris Froome lost five seconds to Porte and Nibali. Rigoberto Uran, runner-up last year, lost eight seconds to Porte and Nibali but remains the best-placed of the contenders to top the podium in Paris on July 29.

Dumoulin, the time trial world champion and 2017 Giro d’Italia winner, was slowed by a tire puncture at the foot of the final ascent and lost 53 seconds. He had entered the stage in seventh place and finished it 15th and one second behind Froome.

Bardet was left 1:45 back in 23rd overall after a spoke on his bike broke.

“Then I had to chase and that effort was fatal. It’s never good to lose time,” said Bardet, who has finished on the podium in the past two Tours. “There are a lot of twists on the Tour and this time luck was not on our side.”

The Tour de France continues Friday with stage seven, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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April Ross, Alix Klineman get early Olympic beach volleyball qualifying boost

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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The U.S. Olympic qualifying chase in women’s beach volleyball figures to be among the most dramatic for the Tokyo Games.

Take last week’s Yangzhou Open, the biggest tournament so far in an Olympic qualification window that runs into June 2020.

April Ross, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World silver medalist, and new partner Alix Klineman won the FIVB World Tour event in China, sweeping Brazilians Ana Patricia and Rebecca 21-19, 21-16 in Sunday’s final.

“Almost didnt get into China bc didnt realize visa was in my old passport, heroes helped, figured out a way,” was tweeted from Ross’ account. “We played terribly in pool, enlisted more help, believed. Called on more help to prepare for unknown teams, fought hard, won.”

The other top U.S. team from last season, Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, rallied for bronze in Yangzhou, 16-21, 23-21, 15-5 over Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes.

Those medal matches came after April Ross and Klineman eliminated triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Kelly Claes in the round of 16. Ross and Walsh Jennings earned bronze together at the Rio Games, then split last year.

Walsh Jennings’ partner for an Olympic run is not Claes but Brooke Sweat, which slightly lessened the impact of the Yangzhou defeat.

Walsh Jennings, a 40-year-old mother of three looking to become the oldest Olympic beach volleyball player, and Sweat will play for the first time in this week’s FIVB World Tour event in Las Vegas, which doubles as a stop on Walsh Jennings’ new p1440 circuit. The event has the same amount of Olympic qualifying points as Yangzhou.

No more than two pairs per gender per nation can qualify for the Olympics, adding results from the next 18 months of international competitions.

That means at least one of Ross/Klineman, Hughes/Ross and Walsh Jennings/Sweat will not make Tokyo.

MORE: U.S. women’s volleyball has worst global result in 12 years

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U.S. women’s volleyball team exits world champs before medal round

U.S. women's volleyball team
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The U.S. women’s volleyball team didn’t get to play for a medal of any color in its world championship title defense.

The Americans were bounced in the penultimate, six-team round with five-set losses to China and the Netherlands. China, the Netherlands, Italy and Serbia will play for the medals later this week.

The U.S., which won its first major tournament title of any kind at the last worlds in 2014, squandered a two-set lead 30-32, 15-25, 25-22, 25-15, 15-9 to the Dutch on Monday in Nagoya.

“Ultimately the result is very disappointing,” U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said, according to USA Volleyball. “They made some changes and we wasted chances in the third set. You have to be good at converting those chances against a team like the Netherlands.”

The U.S. came into the tournament as No. 2 in the world in the most recent rankings from August 2017, trailing only Rio Olympic champion China. It had also won the other global event of 2018, the first Nations League, in the spring and early summer.

At worlds, the Americans won their first seven matches before trouble in the second round last week. They lost back-to-back matches to China (a sweep) and Italy to limp into the third round, where they lost to China again and the Netherlands on back-to-back days.

The fifth- or sixth-place finish will be the U.S.’ lowest result at an Olympics, world champs or World Cup since 2006. It earned medals at each of the last three Olympics but has never taken Olympic gold.

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