Elia Viviani wins Tour de France Stage 4

2 Comments

NANCY, France (AP) — Elia Viviani had left the Giro d’Italia utterly disappointed.

Two months later, the Italian rider left bitterness and his sprinting rivals in his wake to claim his first career stage win in the Tour de France after storming a bunch sprint on Tuesday with an impressive display of power and speed.

The 30-year-old track specialist, arguably the fastest man in the peloton this season, had left his home race empty-handed in May under controversial circumstances.

Viviani, who has now posted stage wins at all three Grand Tours, was stripped of a victory in Italy after the race jury ruled he had irregularly changed his line and blocked an opponent in the sprint.

There was no such hiccup on the finish line in the eastern city of Nancy, and Viviani was clearly the best.

The 2016 omnium Olympic champion was ideally set up by the Deceuninck-Quick Step leadout train in the finale and made the most of the slight uphill finish to prevail. Viviani edged Alexander Kristoff and Caleb Ewan, claiming the fourth stage of the three-week race.

“It means a lot. Probably I can’t believe it. It was a big goal of the year,” said Viviani, who dedicated his win to his fiancée and parents.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

The 213.5-kilometer (133-mile) flat route from Reims to Nancy did not pose any major difficulty and was a perfect opportunity for sprinters to get a stage win, a day after Viviani’s teammate Julian Alaphilippe seized the yellow jersey with a solo effort.

“My father and mother were on the finish line today, they were set to leave yesterday but finally decided to stay because the stage was for sprinters,” Viviani said.

Alaphilippe, the first Frenchman to wear yellow in five years, kept the overall lead, with no change at the top of the overall standings. Both men hugged warmly after their team produced a second straight stage win.

“I just need to thank the team, they were really unbelievable,” Viviani said.

The Italian speedster might soon be racing without his favorite teammates, however, amid reports he might join Cofidis next season as the French outfit seeks to replace its top sprinter.

Viviani said he has yet to make up his mind and that his Tour campaign will determine his future.

After Alaphilippe led the Deceuninck-Quick Step train to the front, Max Richeze and Michael Morkov set a very fast tempo to launch Viviani’s final acceleration. Kristoff opened up the sprint in the final stretch but could not hold off Viviani on the left side of the road.

Alaphilippe was cheered throughout the stage. After several dozen fans greeted him at his team hotel in the morning, supporters lining streets across the small villages of eastern France wildly cheered him on, shouting “Loulou, Loulou!” — the Frenchman’s nickname.

Alaphilippe enjoyed a day free of pressure, well protected in the main pack by teammates, and then played a role in the final sprint to launch Viviani’s final effort.

Defending champion Geraint Thomas and other main contenders enjoyed a calm day too, just making sure they rode at the front to avoid crashes or splits. Thomas and his Ineos teammate Egan Bernal remained seventh and sixth, respectively, in the overall standings.

“The team has been amazing. I haven’t had to do anything, just follow the wheels, and everyone has done their job perfectly. It’s been ideal,” Thomas said.

Under bright sunshine in Reims, three riders attacked from the off.

On long stretches of flat roads, Yoann Offredo, Frederik Backaert and Michael Schär built a lead that never exceeded 3 minutes, 40 seconds as the peloton kept them on a leash before sprinters’ teams organized the pursuit and sped up the pace.

The trio was eventually caught with 17 kilometers left, in the small Cote de Maron climb, leaving the spotlight on the fastest men of the peloton.

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Kelly Slater has an Olympic decision to make

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

China on brink of sweeping every gold medal at diving worlds

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Diving Worlds TV Schedule