Dylan Groenewegen wins consecutive Tour de France stages; cobblestones next

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AMIENS, France (AP) — Dylan Groenewegen has turned the sprinting battle at the Tour de France into a three-man race.

The 25-year-old Dutch rider won his second consecutive stage on Saturday, joining world champion Peter Sagan and Tour newcomer Fernando Gaviria as two-stage winners at this edition of the world’s leading cycling race.

Groenewegen entered the final meters of Stage 8 behind Andre Greipel, Gaviria and Sagan, but the Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider timed his last surge perfectly, swinging around his hard-charging opponents to cross first.

“It was a hectic (finish), but that’s every day in the Tour,” Groenewegen said. “I am very happy with my team. The last two days have been very good with two wins.”

Greipel and Gaviria crossed next, but their results were disqualified after they dangerously jockeyed for position in the final meters, though they both keep their times.

All of the contenders for the final podium in Paris on July 29 finished in the same time.

However those standings could be rattled by cobblestones on the road to Roubaix in Sunday’s ninth stage, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet, who is riding in support of BMC leader Richie Porte, kept the overall lead for a fifth consecutive day Saturday.

Van Avermaet picked up a one-second bonus overall during an intermediate bonus sprint at 20km from the finish. That increased his lead over Froome’s teammate Geraint Thomas in second to 7 seconds and his own BMC teammate Tejay Van Garderen to 9 seconds.

The only incident to interrupt the leg was a pile-up with just under 20km to go. UAE Emirates leader Dan Martin, the winner of Stage 6, bloodied his left elbow and tore the back of his shirt. Martin, sixth at last year’s Tour, and 11 other riders couldn’t reconnect, and Martin lost more than a minute, falling from 21st to 31st place at 2:47 behind.

Every cyclist at the Tour de France, from title favorite Chris Froome to the lowliest support rider, has Sunday circled on their calendar.

Riders will try to stay upright as they bump and bounce their way over 15 cobbled paths scattered along 22 kilometers of the 156.5-kilometer course of Stage 9 from Arras to Roubaix, near the Belgian border.

For four-time champion Froome and most of other title contenders, the ride over the cobbles is about surviving. The top riders who fight for every second on normal roads usually prefer losing time to risking a fall that could knock them out of contention.

As Movistar veteran Alejandro Valverde puts it, “You can’t win the Tour on the cobbles, but you sure can lose it.”

There is one exception to the extreme caution usually shown by the team leaders.

Vincenzo Nibali, the last rider other than Froome to win the Tour, took a huge step to securing his 2014 title when he skillfully traversed the slick cobbles to extend his overall lead.

Valverde and Alberto Contador were both slowed by crashes and finished more than two minutes behind the Italian, as did Americans van Garderen and Andrew Talansky. Froome had to withdraw from that fifth stage when he fell early before the course had reached the cobbles.

Froome did manage to make it through the cobbles in 2015 en route to winning his second Tour.

“I’m not scared,” Froome said.

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Russia to finish Youth Olympics with most medals

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Russia clinched the top spot in the Youth Olympic medal standings, two days before the Closing Ceremony in Buenos Aires and eight months after it was excluded from the PyeongChang Winter Games for its doping problems.

The Russians have 52 medals with 25 golds so far, distancing the rest of the world.

1. Russia — 52 total, 25 gold
2. China — 36 total, 18 gold
3. Mixed NOCs — 36 total, 12 gold
4. Japan — 34 total, 14 gold
5. Italy — 31 total, 10 gold
10. U.S. — 15 total, 4 gold

China and Russia went one-two in total medals at the first two Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010 and Nanjing, China in 2014. The U.S. has never topped a Youth Olympic total medal table, be it Summer or Winter Games.

The U.S. has, however, earned the most total medals at the last six Summer Olympics, beginning with the 1996 Atlanta Games.

The Youth Olympics, for athletes ages 14 to 18, do not emphasize medal counts (plus have many medal events where athletes from different nations compete on the same team). The Games include many Olympic events and some that are not on the Olympic program, including break dancing, where a Russian who goes by Bumblebee earned gold last week.

The next Youth Olympics are the winter version in the IOC base of Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2020, followed by the summer version in 2022 in Dakar, Senegal, the first Olympic Games of any kind to be held in Africa.

The Youth Olympics conclude with the last full day of medal competition on Wednesday and the Closing Ceremony on Thursday.

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Aliya Mustafina returns to gymnastics worlds, year after giving birth

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Aliya Mustafina, an all-around medalist at the last two Olympics, made Russia’s team for next week’s world gymnastics championships, 16 months after giving birth to daughter Alisa.

Mustafina, 24, is joined by one Rio Olympic teammate, Angelina Melnikova, and three world championships rookies (plus Olympian Daria Spiridonova as an alternate), according to Russia’s gymnastics federation.

Mustafina is the last non-American woman to win an Olympic or world championships all-around, back in 2010 in her first year as a senior gymnast. A series of injuries followed, including surgeries on both knees and her left ankle.

She missed the 2015 Worlds with back pain but rebounded for a medal of every color in Rio (uneven bars gold, team silver and all-around bronze, just as she had done at London 2012).

Her seven total Olympic medals are tied for the most by a Russian woman since the fall of the Soviet Union with retired gymnast Svetlana Khorkina.

Viktoria Komova, the 2012 Olympic all-around silver medalist who has also struggled with injuries, is not on Russia’s team for worlds in Doha. She last competed at a global championship in 2015, sharing the uneven bars title with three other gymnasts.

Mustafina joins a list of distinguished moms to return to the top level of gymnastics, including Oksana Chusovitina, who began competing in the Soviet Union in the 1980s and, seven Olympics later, is still competing at age 43 (for Uzbekistan).

The most decorated Olympic gymnast, Soviet Larisa Latynina, earned 12 of her 18 medals after becoming a mom.

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