Simon Yates wins Tour de France Stage 12 ahead of time trial

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BAGNERES-DE-BIGORRE, France (AP) — British rider Simon Yates posted his first Tour de France stage win on Thursday after a long breakaway in the Pyrenees mountains.

Yates, who won the Spanish Vuelta last year, launched a counterattack behind a group of fugitives in a technical downhill and was joined at the front by Gregor Mühlberger and Pello Bilbao.

The trio worked well together until the final sprint shaped up 200 meters from the finish line in Bagneres-de-Bigorre. Yates launched the sprint, was first into the last turn and held off Bilbao for the victory.

“I wasn’t very confident in beating them,” said Yates. “I didn’t know how fast these two riders were but my sport director told me to take the last corner in first position and I’m glad it worked out well. To have a stage at all three Grand Tours makes me very proud.”

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As the Tour hit high mountains with a stage featuring two first-category climbs, the main favorites closely watched each other and did not attack, saving strength for the super hard days still to come.

The main pack of contenders crossed the finish line 9 minutes, 35 seconds behind the winner, with no major change in the overall standings. Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe kept the race leader’s yellow jersey ahead of Friday’s time trial in Pau, 1 minute, 12 seconds ahead of defending champion Geraint Thomas.

Thomas’ teammate Egan Bernal, the Ineos co-leader, remained in third place, a further four seconds behind.

Yates is working in support of his brother Adam at the three-week race and had kept a low profile until now.

“This was probably a unique opportunity for me,” Yates said. “My main goal is to help Adam in the mountains and we thought that wouldn’t be needed today, that’s why I took the breakaway.”

The peloton rode at full speed in the first hour of racing and it took more than 40 kilometers before a group of 40 riders managed to move clear of the pack. Sonny Colbrelli and Lilian Calmejane attacked from that group at the foot of the Col de Peyresourde, a classic twisting ramp at the Tour through a picturesque valley.

Yates then made his move in the Peyresourde downhill, reaching a maximum speed of 94.3 kph (58.6 mph). He was as impressive in the day’s final ascent, the Hourquette d’Ancizan, and was joined at the front by Mühlberger before Bilbao jumped across to them on the descent to Bagneres-de-Bigorre.

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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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s road back through destruction, death

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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