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Hannah Teter, after just missing Olympics, gets back on snowboard

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NEW YORK — It just might be the hardest U.S. Winter Olympic team to make.

A year ago, a bevy of accomplished riders went out for the U.S. Olympic women’s halfpipe team of four. Chloe Kim, the teenager expanding the sport with back-to-back 1080s, was all but a lock. Kelly Clark, perhaps the greatest snowboarder of all time, made it, too. As did Arielle Gold, a world champion at age 16. And Maddie Mastro, 17 and the most improved rider of the Olympic cycle.

That meant an Olympic gold and silver medalist, 31-year-old Hannah Teter, had to watch the Winter Games on TV for the first time since 2002.

“Last year was so heavy,” said Teter, who finished fifth in the U.S. Olympic qualifying standings, one spot ahead of fellow multiple Olympian and the 2017 X Games winner, Elena Hight. “I was bummed, but not really, because all my friends were going, and I knew they were going to win.”

Kim took gold in PyeongChang as part of arguably the greatest season in halfpipe history, becoming the first rider of either gender to sweep X Games, the Olympics and the Burton U.S. Open in one winter. Gold added a bronze. Clark was fourth in perhaps her last Olympics. Mastro qualified fourth into the final and ended up 12th.

Teter said she didn’t ride much in the summer, taking one of the longest breaks from snowboarding of a 15-year career of top-level competition. She is on the entry list for next week’s Dew Tour but said on Monday that she was still deciding whether to compete.

That’s in part because Teter is devoting more time to other pursuits. She was in Manhattan this week for a Muscular Dystrophy Association gala and to promote the Special Olympics World Games in March in Abu Dhabi.

Many Olympic legends have been involved in the World Games, from Michael Phelps to Nadia Comaneci to Michelle Kwan to Apolo Ohno. Teter said she attended the last three. In fact, she helped bridge the Special Olympics and the X Games, introducing a dual slalom event in 2015 that pairs one Special Olympics athlete with one X Games athlete.

Last season, Teter skipped the traditional X Games halfpipe (after missing the Olympic team and falling hard in training) but did compete in the dual slalom with partner Daina Shilts. This season, she is committing to the dual slalom but iffy on halfpipe.

Teter could not remember the last time she missed the X Games halfpipe in a non-Olympic year. Her X Games biography says 2001, days after she turned 14.

Which leads one to wonder if Teter is interested in another Olympic run. In 2022, she will turn 35, older than any previous U.S. Olympic halfpipe rider. She says it’s possible.

“Especially if I just stay in the mix,” said Teter, who last won a top-level contest in January 2009 and must work to keep up with the increasing flips and spins brought by Kim, Gold and Mastro. “It’s [intimidating] because, oh, I’ve got to do that to win? S—. But it is motivating, too, because it’s possible. They’re doing it. They’re landing it. It shows it can be done.”

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MORE: Shaun White takes his longest break from snowboarding

Simone Biles, her name sparkling, extends 6-year win streak

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Simone Biles has long stood out for her gymnastics, but on Saturday she competed with her last name sparkling in silver beads on her World Champions Centre leotard for the first time. The gym’s other athletes had “WCC” on the back.

Biles lived up to the billing, extending her six-year win streak to 19 straight all-arounds, capturing the U.S. Classic, a tune-up for next month’s U.S. Championships.

Biles, the four-time Rio Olympic champion, scored 60 points in Louisville at the meet where she made her comeback last year after nearly two years off from competition. She prevailed by a comfortable 2.1 points over Riley McCusker, her largest margin of victory of her four U.S. Classic titles.

“I’m very satisfied,” she said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I’m a little sad that I went out of bounds on floor [exercise], but overall I feel like there are improvements to be made.”

Full results are here.

Biles is prepping for nationals in Kansas City in three weeks, when she eyes a sixth U.S. all-around title to tie Clara Schroth Lomady‘s record from the AAU era in the 1940s and ’50s.

Then come the world championships in October in Stuttgart, Germany. Biles could win a fifth all-around to move one shy of Kohei Uchimura‘s record.

The world’s other top gymnasts may be her countrywomen.

Biles was outscored on balance beam on Saturday by 2018 World teammates Kara Eaker and McCusker and beaten on uneven bars by 2017 World all-around champion Morgan HurdSunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and McCusker. Biles swept all the gold medals at last year’s nationals.

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Geraint Thomas struggles; Julian Alaphilippe ups Tour de France lead

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LA MONGIE, France (AP) — When the team of Geraint Thomas was in its pomp at the Tour de France, a time trial followed by a big mountain stage would have been playgrounds for Sky — now in new colors as Ineos — to take cycling’s greatest race by the scruff of the neck and leave everyone else fighting for second place.

Not this year.

Thomas, the defending champion, cracked on Saturday on the Tour’s first encounter with a climb to above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), exposing unprecedented weaknesses in his team that has won six Tours in the past seven years.

The time trial on Friday and the climb up to the legendary Tourmalet pass on Saturday seemed primed for Thomas to reel in Julian Alaphilippe, the yellow jersey-holder from France who is setting the Tour alight with his punchy riding and determination to keep the race lead, filling French fans’ heads with dreams of a first homegrown winner since 1985.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

But instead, Thomas has seen Alaphilippe only get further and further away. In two days, the Frenchman has put 50 seconds of extra daylight between him and the Welshman. His lead — up to 2 minutes, 2 seconds — is becoming large enough to start realistically envisioning Alaphilippe in yellow in Paris next weekend as the first French winner since Bernard Hinault.

Fueling the ecstasy of delirious crowds that lined Saturday’s steep uphill finish, French rider Thibaut Pinot won Stage 14, putting him back in the picture to fight for the podium after he lost mountains of time on Stage 10.

Thomas rightly pointed out that the Tour is far from done, with six more ascents to above 2,000 meters still to come.

But his inability to stay with Pinot, Alaphilippe and other title contenders at the top of the Tourmalet — he was eighth, 36 seconds behind Pinot — was a mini-earthquake for the Tour dominated by his British team since 2012 — with champions Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and, in 2018, Thomas.

“Not the best day. I just didn’t feel quite on it from the start. I was quite weak,” Thomas said.

“At the end I knew I just had to pace it. I didn’t really attempt to follow when they kicked. I just thought I should ride my own pace rather than follow them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end. It’s disappointing. I just tried to limit the damage.”

Having taken cycling to a new level since 2012 with its vast budget and attention to the minutest of details, the team run by David Brailsford has been hit both by misfortune and by the inevitability that, eventually, other teams would start to close the gap.

A horror crash in training for four-time winner Froome, now recovering from career-threatening broken bones, robbed the team of its ace. Thomas’ own preparations were hampered by a crash at the Tour of Switzerland last month.

And Egan Bernal, being groomed by Brailsford to succeed Froome and Thomas, looks increasingly unable to compete for the title this year. Bernal was fifth on the Tourmalet and is fourth overall, 3 minutes behind Alaphilippe.

Pinot, now sixth overall and 3:12 behind Alaphilippe, is showing remarkable grit in bouncing back from his Stage 10 misfortune, when he was part of a group that got separated from other title contenders in crosswinds.

“I have this rage inside me, because in my opinion it was an injustice,” said Pinot, a podium finisher in 2014.

“Since the start of the Tour I had this stage in the back of my mind. The Tourmalet, it’s mythical,” said Pinot, who has three career stage wins at the Tour.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on hand at the top of the Tourmalet to see Pinot win and Alaphilippe extend his lead, gushed about the “two fantastic riders.”

“They attack and they have heart,” Macron said.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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