Sagan sprints to victory in Tour de France Stage 5

Leave a comment

COLMAR, France (AP) Peter Sagan of Slovakia silenced his critics and won the fifth stage of the Tour de France Wednesday as Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe kept the race leader’s yellow jersey.

The three-time world champion posted a 12th career stage win at cycling’s biggest race, emerging victorious from a bunch sprint in the eastern city of Colmar at the end of a 175.5-kilometer (109-mile) trek through the green forests and hills of western France’s Vosges massif.

Sagan, the dominant sprinter in recent years, arrived at the Tour in the wake of a disappointing season and was well beaten in Tuesday’s sprint in Nancy.

He said he was slowed by illness earlier this year but recovered in time to prepare for the Tour as planned.

“I think you cannot compare my current form with the one I had this spring,” said Sagan, who is bidding for a record seventh green jersey, which is awarded to the best sprinter.

“I was sick, lots of sickness in my body. I’ve recovered, and now I’m here.”

Since 2012, Sagan has failed to win the green jersey just once, when he was disqualified following a crash with Mark Cavendish two years ago.

He took a resounding revenge in Colmar, surging ahead in the middle of the road to edge Wout van Aert and Matteo Trentin.

“I just have to ride with passion and the victory comes,” Sagan said. “I have to say thanks to all my teammates. They have done a great job and finally we have the Tour de France victory that we were looking for. It’s very nice for us. We controlled all day, on the flat part and towards the finish. I did my best. Everyone needs good luck and a good day for winning.”

The sprint was not contested by pure specialists, who got dropped over the four climbs on the day’s program.

Alaphilippe finished in the main pack alongside other main contenders including defending champion Geraint Thomas, with no change at the top of the overall standings.

The stage got off to a lively start and a group of four riders managed to break away from the pack following a series of unsuccessful attacks.

Mads Wurtz, Tim Wellens, Toms Skujins and Simon Clarke collaborated well and built a two-minute lead over the peloton. The pace at the back of the race picked up in the second half of the stage but the quartet went over the summit of the Cote du Haut Koenigsbourg with 1 minute, 45 seconds on their pursuers.

Skujins attacked in the Cote des Trois Epis – a 4.9-kilometer climb at an average gradient of 6.8 percent – to drop his breakaway companions with a sustained effort. The Latvian rider’s lead over the main pack was reduced to one minute at the top and he was caught in the final difficulty on the program, the Cote des Cinq Chateaux.

Hostilities between the race favorites are expected to start during Thursday’s first key stage to the Planche des Belles Filles, a leg-breaking climb likely to reshuffle the standings.

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