Gracious in defeat, Chris Froome to aim again at Tour de France glory

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PARIS (AP) — Sitting alone and unnoticed behind a giant board during the Tour de France winner’s news conference, Chris Froome patiently listened to Geraint Thomas’s answers.

It was an unfamiliar position for Froome, who for the first time in four years did not occupy the podium’s first place at cycling’s biggest race on Sunday.

Froome, who failed in his bid to win the Tour for a record-equaling fifth time, ended the race in third place, 2 minutes, 24 seconds behind his team Sky teammate Thomas. The 33-year-old Froome also came short in his attempt to win both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same season, but there was no hard feeling.

“After he won the Giro, Chris came here to win the race, that’s for sure,” Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford said. “He did not come here to be third on the podium. But when he realized Geraint was the strongest, he did not start sulking at the back of the bus. Not at all. He said: ‘I will now ride as a teammate and I’ll do my best for Geraint and the team because of all the work you did for me over the past years’.”

Froome was subjected to abuse by some fans on the roads of France this summer after being cleared of a doping case only days before the start. He said he was repeatedly spat at and that spectators punched him and tried to make him fall off his bike.

He crashed in the opening stage — not because of fans — and lost 51 seconds, and he hit the ground again on the cobbled stage in northern France. Froome’s fate was sealed in the Pyrenees, where he was dropped by his rivals during Stage 17 to the Col du Portet, but still managed to snatch a place on the tour podium with an impressive effort in the final time trial.

“I’ve had quite a few emotions throughout this race, moments of disappointment, crashing, moments of joy when we’ve won stages and taken the yellow jersey,” said Froome, who rode the whole season under the cloud of a possible suspension. “That’s bike racing. Like any Grand Tour, this has been a roller coaster with ups and downs.”

Froome has been the dominant Grand Tour rider in recent years and started as the race’s favorite once again, only to be eclipsed by Thomas.

Despite his failure, Froome still believes a double Tour-Giro remains possible. Only seven riders have done it, and the last to achieve the feat was the late Marco Pantani in 1998. This season, Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin also competed at both races and finished second at both.

“Interesting that you mentioned Tom as well, for him to be second in both Grand Tours, I think that it shows it is possible to do both of the races at a really high level, which only leads me to believe it is possible to do both of them,” Froome said.

Froome did not reveal whether he would try again for the double next year. It’s more likely he will focus on the Tour solely to match the record of five wins shared by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

“I really don’t believe Chris is on a downhill trend,” Brailsford said. “It was just a blip. He went through an extremely difficult time and still won the Giro. He was obviously disappointed here, but he was dignified throughout. There is no doubt he wants to win a fifth Tour and I believe it’s possible.”

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Germany goes 1-2 at bobsled worlds; Kaillie Humphries breaks medals record

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Kim Kalicki and Lisa Buckwitz gave Germany a one-two in the world bobsled championships two-woman event, while American Kaillie Humphries earned bronze to break the career medals record.

Kalicki, who was fourth at last year’s Olympics and leads this season’s World Cup standings, edged Buckwitz by five hundredths of a second combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Humphries, with push athlete Kaysha Love, was 51 hundredths behind.

Olympic champion Laura Nolte was in third place after two runs but crashed in the third run.

Humphries, 37 and a three-time Olympic champion between two-woman and monobob, earned her eighth world championships medal in the two-woman event. That broke her tie for the record of seven with retired German Sandra Kiriasis. Humphries is also the most decorated woman in world championships monobob, taking gold and silver in the two times it has been contested.

Humphries rolled her ankle after the first day of last week’s monobob, plus took months off training in the offseason while also doing two rounds of IVF.

“I chose to continue the IVF journey through the season which included a Lupron Depot shot the day before this race began,” she posted after her monobob silver last weekend. “My weight and body fluctuating all year with hormones, it was a battle to find my normal while competing again. I’m happy with this result, I came into it wanting a podium and we achieved it as a team.”

Love, who was seventh with Humphries in the Olympic two-woman event, began her transition to become a driver after the Games.

Worlds finish Sunday with the final two runs of the four-man event.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.