Chris Froome, hospitalized after crash, may be in line for 2011 Vuelta title

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PARIS (AP) — Chris Froome remained hospitalized in France on Thursday after the high-speed crash that left him with multiple fractures and shattered his hopes of going for a record-equaling fifth Tour de France title next month.

He also may now be in line to be the 2011 Vuelta a España winner after the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced original champion, the retired Juan José Cobo, was banned three years for biological passport abnormalities from 2009 and 2011.

The UCI did not say whether Cabo’s doping ban could affect his Vuelta title, won by 13 seconds over Froome, two years before Froome won the first of his six Grand Tours at the 2013 Tour de France.

If Froome gets the 2011 Vuelta, he will move into a tie for fourth on the all-time Grand Tour titles list with Fausto Coppi, Miguel Indurain and Alberto Contador. Only Eddy Merckx (11), Bernard Hinault (10) and Jacques Anquetil (eight) have more.

Froome was airlifted to Saint-Etienne hospital in central France and underwent surgery after he hit a wall at 34 miles per hour during a training ride before the fourth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine in Roanne on Wednesday.

The Dauphine is a traditional warmup race for the Tour de France, the three-week showpiece race Froome and his teammates have dominated in recent years.

The 34-year-old Froome broke his right femur, elbow and several ribs. He was in intensive care and underwent surgery for several hours. His Ineos Team, which already said the crash ruled him out of the Tour, is expected to give an update on his condition later Thursday.

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Team principal Dave Brailsford told the BBC that Froome was on a descent with teammate Wout Poels when he went to blow his nose and a gust of wind took out his front wheel, he lost control, and he hit the wall of a house.

Froome, who won the Tour de France in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, has often crashed in his career but had never been so seriously injured.

Last year on the Tour, he crashed in the opening stage and hit the ground again on a cobbled stage in northern France. He was also forced out of the 2014 Tour after injuring his left wrist in crashes, and abandoned the 2015 Spanish Vuelta with a foot injury following yet another accident.

After his third-place finish in last year’s Tour, Froome had only one goal this season: matching the record of five wins shared by Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain.

He had skipped the Giro to focus solely on cycling’s marquee event and was hoping to put the final touches to his preparations at the Dauphine.

“Chris had worked incredibly hard to get in fantastic shape and was on track for the Tour, which unfortunately he will now miss,” Brailsford said.

Froome’s absence will settle the leadership question within Ineos, with Geraint Thomas looking to defend his title in July without a rival in his squad.

“Such crap news!! It’s always horrible hearing about any bad crash, but even worse when it’s a good mate!!” Thomas wrote on Twitter after finding out about Froome’s accident.

The Tour de France starts on July 6 from Brussels, Belgium.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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