Mike Teunissen wins Tour de France Stage 1; Geraint Thomas crashes

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BRUSSELS (AP) — Mike Teunissen claimed the first yellow jersey of this year’s Tour de France with a sprint victory in Saturday’s opening stage, which was marked by defending champion Geraint Thomas’ crash in the finale.

Thomas’ Ineos team said he fell in the final meters but “feels fine.” Another top contender, Jakob Fuglsang, also hit the tarmac about 12 miles from the finish in a separate crash.

The 26-year-old Teunissen, who became the first Dutch rider to wear the yellow jersey since Erik Breukink 30 years ago, edged former world champion Peter Sagan and Caleb Ewan on the finish line in Brussels.

Thomas quickly got back on his bike after hitting a barrier while his teammate Egan Bernal was held up by the crash. They did not lose time as per race regulations because the accident occurred within the final three kilometers.

In the absence of four-time winner Chris Froome, Thomas and Bernal have been promoted to co-leaders of the Ineos team.

Fuglsang, who is rated among the favorites this year, was hurt in the crash that took place a few moments earlier. The Criterium du Dauphine winner remounted his bike with blood on his face and right knee, and scratches on his jersey.

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The race started from the Belgian capital to honor the 50th anniversary of cycling great Eddy Merckx’s first of five Tour victories. The 120.8-mile trek took the peloton through the Flanders and Wallonia regions and back to Brussels, which will also host Sunday’s team time trial.

The second spill played havoc within the sprinters’ teams riding at the front and split the peloton in two. It took out of contention Teunissen’s Jumbo-Visma teammate Dylan Groenewegen, the team’s best sprinter.

“Bizarre scenario. I hope Dylan is OK,” said Teunissen, who was initially set to be part of Groenewegen’s lead-out train.

In the slightly uphill section leading to the finish line on the leafy Avenue du Parc Royal, Teunissen perfectly timed his effort to deny Sagan a 12th stage win at the Tour.

The opening day had started in a joyful atmosphere in the cycling-mad city of Brussels. Merckx was greeted by Belgian fans filling the streets as he stood alongside race director Christian Prudhomme in a red open-top car riding in front of the peloton.

The five-time Tour champion saluted the crowd and chatted with competitors before a short stop on Brussels’ Grand Place where Prudhomme introduced riders to King Philippe of Belgium and Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Leaving Brussels, the 176 Tour competitors started their loop south of the city at a fast tempo as a group of four riders led by Greg Van Avermaet, a one-day classics specialist from Belgium, immediately formed at the front.

The quartet reached the first difficulty of the day — the Muur van Geraardsbergen, a 1.2-kilometer cobbled climb — with a 3-minute lead. Van Avermaet made a point of honor to be first at the top to the delight of home fans cheering him along on the side of the road. Belgian rider Xandro Meurisse, a member of the initial breakaway, was first at the Bosberg, another climb featuring at the Ronde van Vlaanderen classic race.

Guaranteed the first best climber’s polka dot jersey, Van Avermaet stopped his effort soon after and was reined in by the peloton as the lead group was reduced to three men: Meurisse, Natnael Berhane and Mads Wurtz.

Behind them, sprinters’ teams organized the chase to reduce the gap to less than two minutes with 90 kilometers to go. As the main pack approached a two-kilometer long and dangerous cobbled sector outside of the city of Charleroi, Thomas and other contenders also surged to the front in a move aimed at avoiding potential crashes on a narrow stretch of road.

The only noteworthy incident on the tricky section was Deceuninck-Quick Step sprinter Elia Viviani’s puncture. The Italian rider was held back for a while and could not compete with the fastest men for the intermediate sprint points once the three at the front were caught with 70 kilometers left.

Sagan, chasing a seventh best sprinter’s green jersey this year, used his power and speed to beat Sonny Colbrelli and Van Avermaet.

Tour debutant Stephane Rossetto of France then tried a solo escape and was first at the Lion’s Mound monument that overlooks the battlefield where Napoleon’s troops were defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. But the Frenchman’s efforts on open stretches of road exposed to wind were left unrewarded and he was ultimately swallowed up as the final sprint took shape.

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Kelly Slater has an Olympic decision to make

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Surfing icon Kelly Slater is in great position to qualify for his sport’s Olympic debut in 2020, but he’s undecided about making a required event appearance this summer to stay eligible.

The top two U.S. male surfers in this season’s World Surf League final standings are in line to qualify for the Olympics.

Slater, a 47-year-old, 11-time world champion, is ranked third among Americans through six of 11 events, but the No. 2, two-time world champion John John Florence, is likely out for the rest of the season after an ACL tear.

If Slater keeps up his current pace of results, he will pass Florence’s point total by the end of the season in December.

“It appears as though I have to make a decision [on the Olympics] sooner than that,” Slater said after being eliminated from South Africa’s J-Bay Open in ninth place on Wednesday. “I’ve really got to figure out all the factors around that and make a decision in the next few weeks.”

Slater’s concern is the ISA World Surfing Games in Miyazaki, Japan, in September, an event that top Olympic hopefuls on the WSL tour are required to attend, barring illness or injury.

“I think I have to surf that event, and if I don’t, it may disqualify me,” he said (the International Surfing Association, the sport’s governing body, later confirmed it would disqualify him). “But I’m not sure if I want to go to Japan and compete right now.”

The ISA Games take place in the week between the next two WSL events, the latter hosted by Slater’s Surf Ranch wave pool in California.

“I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the Olympics right now, anyways,” said Slater, who last year said he was “50-50” on the Olympics when noting his differing thoughts on the qualification process and venue. “The point is, I’m not really focusing on it at this point. I’m trying to get myself back in the flow of the tour.”

Slater missed 13 tour stops between the 2017 and 2018 seasons after breaking a foot and having multiple surgeries.

He finished fifth, third, ninth, ninth and ninth in his five most recent events to get into Olympic qualifying position. He expected more after placing third in the two contests he entered healthy last season. Slater said he competed at J-Bay after straining his back “really bad” on Sunday, keeping him from surfing the three days before the contest.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, at 48, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, via the OlyMADMen.

“Right now in my head the focus is more on this tour than it is on the Olympics, but we’ll see,” he said. “I was starting this year with a lot of pressure on myself to try and make the Olympic team and think, maybe I’ll retire there next year and that will be the end for me. It put so much pressure on the start of the year for me that I didn’t feel like I could freely compete. It was putting too many things in my head. I needed to let that take a backseat and not worry about it. I’m just not really thinking about it a lot.”

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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China on brink of sweeping every gold medal at diving worlds

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Shi Tingmao joined Guo Jingjing as the only women to win three straight world titles in an individual diving event, giving China 11 gold medals in 11 events with two finals left in Gwangju, South Korea.

Shi, who swept the individual and synchronized springboard titles in Rio, claimed the 3m world title on Friday by 18.25 points with 391 total. Countrywoman Wang Han took silver, 5.8 points ahead of Australian Maddison Keeney.

Americans Sarah Bacon and Brooke Schultz missed the 12-woman final, placing 14th and 29th.

China, which has dominated the sport for two decades, is looking to sweep the golds at an Olympics or worlds for the second time after winning all 10 events in 2011. This year’s feat could be more impressive, should China win the last two events Saturday — a mixed-gender springboard and the men’s platform.

That’s because three mixed-gender events were added to the world program (but not the Olympic program) since 2011. And this year, China has not only won every gold but also taken every silver in the three individual Olympic program events thus far.

China is in strong position to go one-two in the men’s platform. Yang Jian and Yang Hao were nearly 70 points clear of the field in Friday’s semifinals.

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MORE: Diving Worlds TV Schedule