Geraint Thomas wins Tour de France on ride into Paris

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PARIS (AP) — Geraint Thomas won his first Tour de France title on Sunday, concluding his transformation from a support rider into a champion of cycling’s biggest race.

The Welsh rider with Team Sky successfully defended his lead of 1 minute, 51 seconds over second-placed Tom Dumoulin in the mostly ceremonial final stage.

Thomas rode a yellow bicycle to match his yellow jersey and shared glasses of champagne with his teammates during the casual ride into Paris before buckling down to keep up with the other leaders on the cobblestones of the Champs-Elysees.

“It’s going to take a while to sink in,” Thomas said before draping the flag of Wales over his shoulders during the podium ceremony. “Normally that stage is really hard but today I just seemed to float around it. I had goose bumps going around there. The support from the Welsh, British flags. … To ride around wearing this (yellow jersey) is a dream.”

TOUR DE FRANCE: Final Standings

Four-time champion Chris Froome, Thomas’s teammate, finished third, 2:24 behind, and rode next to Thomas as they crossed the line, with Froome applauding.

Thomas was a support rider during Froome’s four victories but he emerged as Sky’s strongest rider in this race when Froome crashed early on and couldn’t keep up in the mountains.

Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff with UAE Team Emirates won the last stage in a sprint finish, narrowly beating John Degenkolb and Arnaud Demare.

“I’ve dreamed about this victory for many years,” Kristoff said. “I’ve been close many times before but never managed to beat the faster guys like (Mark) Cavendish, (Andre) Greipel, or (Marcel) Kittel, but today they’re not here, they’re out after the mountains, and today I was the fastest, so I’m super happy.”

The mostly flat 116-kilometer (72-mile) leg began in Houilles just outside Paris and concluded with nine laps up and down the Champs-Elysees.

Many spectators along the Champs-Elysees held their arms high to record the riders on their smart phones as they went past on the cobblestones, and there were more cheers when 11 jets flew overhead leaving trails in the blue, white and red colors of the French flag.

Street vendors sold chicken, sausages, waffles, cake and sweets, while the smell of crepes filled the air.

Glenn Roberts, from Newtown in mid-Wales, was in attendance with his wife and children. The family timed its summer vacation to coincide with the Tour’s finish.

“Thomas was in the yellow when we left Wales but we didn’t know if he was going to keep it. We thought Froome was going to win it, if I’m being honest,” Roberts said. “It’s the best thing a Welshman has ever done in sport.”

French rider Sylvain Chavanel, riding his record 18th Tour, rode ahead of the pack as the first rider onto the Champs-Elysees.

World champion Peter Sagan matched Erik Zabel’s record by winning the green jersey points competition for a sixth time. French riders Julian Alaphilippe and Pierre Latour secured the polka-dot mountains jersey and best young rider white jersey, respectively.

The three-week race covered 3,351 kilometers (2,082 miles).

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Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned 4 years

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Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

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Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
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Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)