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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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WATCH LIVE: Nathan Chen in U.S. Figure Skating Championships free skate

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Nathan Chen tries to become the first man to win four straight U.S. figure skating titles since 1988, live on NBC Sports on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of the men’s free skate for subscribers starting at 2:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC joins with TV coverage at 3.

LIVE STREAM: Men’s Free Skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the seventh man since World War II to win four straight national titles.

Five of the previous six went on to earn Olympic gold, including Dick ButtonScott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano in 1988.

Chen carries a substantial 13.14-point lead from Saturday’s short program, where he landed two quadruple jumps on one week of full training following a flu bout.

The anticipated drama Sunday comes in the battle for silver and bronze medals and the last two world championships team spots.

Jason BrownAndrew TorgashevVincent Zhou and Tomoki Hiwatashi are separated by 8.78 points. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, are the only men in the field other than Chen with world team experience.

Key Skate Times
5:01 p.m. (ET) — Vincent Zhou
5:18 — Tomoki Hiwatashi
5:26 — Andrew Torgashev
5:35 — Nathan Chen
5:43 — Jason Brown

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As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Mikaela Shiffrin, with 66th World Cup win, moves one shy of career dream

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Mikaela Shiffrin has said one of her career dreams is to win in every discipline in one season. She is now one victory shy of realizing it.

Shiffrin earned her 66th World Cup victory — and her second in three days — at a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria, on Sunday.

She prevailed by .29 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino and .70 over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami. Gut-Behrami, the last skier other than Shiffrin to win a World Cup overall title back in 2016, earned her first podium in exactly one year.

Full results are here.

“Perfect weekend for me,” said Shiffrin, who moved one shy of recently retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher for third place on the World Cup career wins list. “The whole team is excited about the whole weekend, but especially today.”

She is en route to a fourth straight World Cup overall title. And she is a combined victory away from wins in all five disciplines in one season. Only Marc GirardelliPetra KronbergerJanica Kostelic and Tina Maze have done it.

“The thing that I’m most proud of right now is that I know how to win in slalom, [giant slalom], super-G and downhill, which I never expected that would really happen,” she said.

Shiffrin struggled with confidence during a winless stretch in early January, trying not to compare herself to last season, when she won a record 17 times. She still leads the men’s and women’s tours with six victories this season, a little more than halfway through.

“Every race is such a big fight, and I haven’t been the one on top of this fight every time,” she said. “Certainly I’ve been like sometimes the expectations that I have or that other people might have, I’m not quite living up to that. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m failing sometimes, even though this is still just an incredible season.”

There are two combined races left this season for Shiffrin to achieve the dream — Feb. 23 in Switzerland and March 1 in Italy. While combined — mixing a speed run and a technical run — might seem perfect for Shiffrin, she has one victory in four starts in the discipline between the World Cup and Olympics.

And Shiffrin is careful about her race schedule. She is undecided on entering a downhill and super-G next weekend at the 2014 Olympic venue in Russia.

“After this weekend my brain is a little bit dead,” she joked.

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