AP

Eliud Kipchoge announces special sub-2-hour marathon bid (again)

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OXFORD, England (AP) — Eliud Kipchoge has funding from Britain’s richest man for his bid to break the two-hour marathon barrier again later this year.

The fastest marathon runner of all time announced plans for the record attempt during a visit to the track in Oxford where Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile 65 years ago on Monday.

“I want to unlock that thought that there are limitations in the human being,” Kipchoge told The Associated Press at the Iffley Road track. “There are no barriers when you believe in yourself and try and trust in what you are doing.”

The 34-year-old Olympic champion has gained the trust of Jim Ratcliffe, who founded chemicals group INEOS and is estimated by London-based Sunday Times Rich List to be worth 21 billion pounds ($28 billion).

Ratcliffe spent the London Marathon earlier this month in the pace car watching Kipchoge win the event for a record fourth time.

London is where Ratcliffe hopes the Kenyan runner will in September or October be lowering his world record marathon time of 2 hours, 1 minute, 39 seconds — set in Berlin in September — to under two hours.

Kipchoge made an attempt at the Monza motor racing circuit in Italy in May 2017, falling 26 seconds short across 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) around an oval track in a time not sanctioned by the IAAF, because of variables such as pacers entering mid-race and drinks being given to runners via mopeds.

This time a parklands circuit could be favored over a road circuit because Ratcliffe anticipates needing dates in London on three consecutive weekends being set aside to ensure the conditions are optimal for Kipchoge.

“If we have it in London it would need to be an iconic location that fulfils the performance criteria that’s flat and has a good surface,” Ratcliffe said after posing with Kipchoge in front of a clock that read “1:59.00.”

According to Ratciffle’s vision, the ideal situation for the attempt would involve a circuit of 2 to 3 kilometers, and a crowd.

“It’s one of those great challenges in the sporting world to try and break two hours,” for the marathon, Ratcliffe told the AP. “If he does succeed it’ll be very inspirational for people. He’s the finest marathon runner the world has ever produced and I think he’s still getting better.”

This is the latest foray into sports for Ratcliffe, who has taken over the Team Sky cycling outfit and renamed it after INEOS.

“We worked for 25-30 years in business and it’s quite successful,” Ratcliffe said. “We can afford to do this and why shouldn’t we really? We’re putting a modest amount in our terms into sport. I think they are good endeavors. We enjoy it and we can.”

There is also a risk. Ratcliffe said he has conducted due diligence into the athletes he is now funding in cycling and athletics — two sports that have grappled with doping issues.

“We probe quite deeply into that,” Ratcliffe said. “I have no interest in cheating.”

Neither does Kipchoge.

“This is the time to prove to the whole world that you can run in a positive way,” Kipchoge said, “and in a clean way and actually make history.”

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Geraint Thomas cuts Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France lead

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FOIX, France (AP) — When one French rider starts to fade, another comes to the fore. One way or the other, France may still be on course for its first Tour de France winner since 1985.

Dancing over his saddle, his mouth wide open and gasping for air, Thibaut Pinot launched a ferocious attack Sunday and profited from the first signs of weakness in the high mountains from French race leader Julian Alaphilippe to edge closer to the yellow jersey in the overall standings.

Ascending the last uphill finish in the Pyrenees with a display of power and fluidity that signaled that he’ll also be a major contender to win the Tour, Pinot gained time on all his rivals for the second consecutive day following his triumph at the famed Tourmalet mountain in the previous stage.

Heading to the second and final rest day Monday ahead of what promises to be a climactic final week in the Alps, the race is exquisitely poised. Six riders are all within 2 minutes, 14 seconds of each other at the top of the standings.

The six terrible ascents above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in the Alps, peppered over three mountain stages, will likely decide who will stand on top of the podium on the Champs-Elysees next Sunday.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

“The high mountains have only just begun,” said Alaphilippe. “The Alps are going to be a big mouthful.”

Surging from the mist and rain, Pinot crossed the finish line of Sunday’s Stage 15 in second place, 33 seconds behind Simon Yates, who posted a second stage win after a long solo raid, three days after his first stage victory in the southwestern mountain range.

The 29-year-old Pinot was irresistible when he made his move seven kilometers from the summit. Only Emanuel Buchmann and defending champion Geraint Thomas’ teammate Egan Bernal could follow. But Pinot accelerated again about 2 kilometers later to drop them for good.

Pinot moved to fourth place overall, 1 minute, 50 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

“The weather conditions and the stage were good for me, I had good sensations, I needed to make the most of it,” said Pinot. “I need to keep going up in the general classification, the most difficult stages are looming.”

While Pinot was escorted by his faithful Groupama-FDJ teammate David Gaudu in the final ascent toward Prat d’Albis, Alaphilippe was isolated without a single teammate to help him in the 12-kilometer climb and cracked, yet managed to salvage his yellow jersey.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Thomas, who had already conceded time to Pinot at the Tourmalet, remained second in the general classification. He got dropped when Pinot took the lead from a reduced group of contenders but did not panic. He rode at his pace until he accelerated with 1.5 kilometers left to cut the overall gap on Alaphilippe from 2 minutes, 2 seconds to 1:35. Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands stood third overall, 1:47 off the pace.

Thomas said after the stage he could have tried to follow Pinot earlier but instead opted for a conservative approach because he did not want to bring back Alaphilippe to the front. Bernal was with Pinot and the Welshman would not take the risk of chasing down their common rival. Bernal, a Colombian with excellent climbing skills, remains involved in the fight for the yellow jersey, 2:02 behind Alaphilippe.

“I felt better than yesterday but I needed to try to pace it when it all kicked off,” Thomas said. “It’s a difficult one, tactics wise. I wanted to go, I had the legs to go but I wasn’t going to chase down Egan Bernal with Alaphilippe on my wheel.”

Coming right after the ascent of the Tourmalet, Stage 15 ran close to the ancient Cathar castles and was a punishing ride totaling more than 39 kilometers of climbing.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced and dribbled through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Yates, the Vuelta defending champion, was given a free reign by the peloton when he took part in an early breakaway as he was not a threat overall. He made his decisive move about 9 kilometers from the line.

“I’m very proud of that,” Yates said of his second victory at this Tour.

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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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce turns back the clock, wins another Diamond League

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce continues to show she’s just as fast as before childbirth, winning a Diamond League 100m in 10.78 seconds in London on Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce, a 32-year-old, two-time Olympic champion, beat a field that included the two fastest women of 2018, Brit Dina Asher-Smith (10.92) and Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou (10.98).

It lacked the only woman ranked higher than Fraser-Pryce this season, Rio Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who edged her countrywoman at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

But Fraser-Pryce has now broken 10.79 three times this season, her first time doing so since 2013. She could become the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world 100m title in Doha in two months.

“10.78 is a fabulous time,” she said. “My aim for Doha is definitely to be on the podium. For me, it’s a long season from here, so I am hoping my experience will come into play.”

Full London results are here. The meet lacked U.S. stars who are preparing for this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where world champs spots are at stake. The Diamond League resumes Aug. 18 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Also Sunday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri won an anticipated head-to-head with Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in the 5000m. Obiri, the world champion, clocked 14:20.36, the world’s fastest time in two years. Hassan, who nine days ago broke the mile world record, took third in a European record 14:22.12.

Swede Daniel Ståhl won a discus that included the world’s top three this year and the reigning Olympic and world gold and silver medalists. Stahl launched a 68.56-meter throw to overtake Jamaican Fedrick Dacres.

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