Geraint Thomas struggles; Julian Alaphilippe ups Tour de France lead

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LA MONGIE, France (AP) — When the team of Geraint Thomas was in its pomp at the Tour de France, a time trial followed by a big mountain stage would have been playgrounds for Sky — now in new colors as Ineos — to take cycling’s greatest race by the scruff of the neck and leave everyone else fighting for second place.

Not this year.

Thomas, the defending champion, cracked on Saturday on the Tour’s first encounter with a climb to above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), exposing unprecedented weaknesses in his team that has won six Tours in the past seven years.

The time trial on Friday and the climb up to the legendary Tourmalet pass on Saturday seemed primed for Thomas to reel in Julian Alaphilippe, the yellow jersey-holder from France who is setting the Tour alight with his punchy riding and determination to keep the race lead, filling French fans’ heads with dreams of a first homegrown winner since 1985.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

But instead, Thomas has seen Alaphilippe only get further and further away. In two days, the Frenchman has put 50 seconds of extra daylight between him and the Welshman. His lead — up to 2 minutes, 2 seconds — is becoming large enough to start realistically envisioning Alaphilippe in yellow in Paris next weekend as the first French winner since Bernard Hinault.

Fueling the ecstasy of delirious crowds that lined Saturday’s steep uphill finish, French rider Thibaut Pinot won Stage 14, putting him back in the picture to fight for the podium after he lost mountains of time on Stage 10.

Thomas rightly pointed out that the Tour is far from done, with six more ascents to above 2,000 meters still to come.

But his inability to stay with Pinot, Alaphilippe and other title contenders at the top of the Tourmalet — he was eighth, 36 seconds behind Pinot — was a mini-earthquake for the Tour dominated by his British team since 2012 — with champions Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and, in 2018, Thomas.

“Not the best day. I just didn’t feel quite on it from the start. I was quite weak,” Thomas said.

“At the end I knew I just had to pace it. I didn’t really attempt to follow when they kicked. I just thought I should ride my own pace rather than follow them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end. It’s disappointing. I just tried to limit the damage.”

Having taken cycling to a new level since 2012 with its vast budget and attention to the minutest of details, the team run by David Brailsford has been hit both by misfortune and by the inevitability that, eventually, other teams would start to close the gap.

A horror crash in training for four-time winner Froome, now recovering from career-threatening broken bones, robbed the team of its ace. Thomas’ own preparations were hampered by a crash at the Tour of Switzerland last month.

And Egan Bernal, being groomed by Brailsford to succeed Froome and Thomas, looks increasingly unable to compete for the title this year. Bernal was fifth on the Tourmalet and is fourth overall, 3 minutes behind Alaphilippe.

Pinot, now sixth overall and 3:12 behind Alaphilippe, is showing remarkable grit in bouncing back from his Stage 10 misfortune, when he was part of a group that got separated from other title contenders in crosswinds.

“I have this rage inside me, because in my opinion it was an injustice,” said Pinot, a podium finisher in 2014.

“Since the start of the Tour I had this stage in the back of my mind. The Tourmalet, it’s mythical,” said Pinot, who has three career stage wins at the Tour.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on hand at the top of the Tourmalet to see Pinot win and Alaphilippe extend his lead, gushed about the “two fantastic riders.”

“They attack and they have heart,” Macron said.

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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2019 Vuelta a Espana TV, live stream schedule

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The Vuelta a España, the cycling season’s third and final Grand Tour, airs live for every stage between NBC Sports and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA the next three weeks.

NBC Sports Gold streams live, commercial-free coverage of all 21 stages via the “Cycling Pass.”

NBCSN and Olympic Channel combine for daily TV coverage of the Spanish Grand Tour.

Colombian Nairo Quintana headlines the field, eyeing his third Grand Tour title and his first since the 2016 Vuelta. Perhaps the most most accomplished rider is Movistar teammate and world road race champion Alejandro Valverde.

Steven Kruijswijk, who was third at the Tour de France, and Primož Roglič, who was third at the Giro d’Italia, are other podium contenders.

Tejay van Garderen is the most accomplished of the nine U.S. riders in the field, coming back from a crash that prematurely ended his Tour de France in July.

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Date Time (ET) Stage Platform
Sat., Aug. 24 12:35 p.m. Stage 1 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
4 p.m. Stage 1 Olympic Channel
Sun., Aug. 25 1 a.m. Stage 1 NBCSN
9 a.m. Stage 2 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 2 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Mon, Aug. 26 1 a.m. Stage 2 NBCSN
9 a.m. Stage 3 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 3 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Tues., Aug. 27 9 a.m. Stage 4 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 4 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Wed., Aug. 28 9 a.m. Stage 5 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 5 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Thurs., Aug. 29 9 a.m. Stage 6 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 6 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
12 p.m. Stage 6 NBCSN
Fri., Aug. 30 9 a.m. Stage 7 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 7 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sat., Aug. 31 9 a.m. Stage 8 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 8 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sun., Sept. 1 9 a.m. Stage 9 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 9 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Tues., Sept. 3 9 a.m. Stage 10 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 10 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Wed., Sept. 4 9 a.m. Stage 11 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 11 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Thurs., Sept. 5 9 a.m. Stage 12 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 12 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Fri., Sept. 6 9 a.m. Stage 13 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 13 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sat., Sept. 7 9 a.m. Stage 14 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 14 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sun., Sept. 8 6:35 a.m. Stage 15 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 15 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Mon., Sept. 9 1 a.m. Stage 15 Olympic Channel
7:05 a.m. Stage 16 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 16 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Wed., Sept. 11 9 a.m. Stage 17 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 17 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
12 p.m. Stage 17 NBCSN
Thurs., Sept. 12 6:05 a.m. Stage 18 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 18 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Fri., Sept. 13 9 a.m. Stage 19 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 19 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
12 p.m. Stage 19 NBCSN
Sat., Sept. 14 5:40 a.m. Stage 20 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 20 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sun., Sept. 15 10:45 a.m. Stage 21 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
1 p.m. Stage 21 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
3 p.m. Madrid Challenge – Women’s Race Olympic Channel
Mon., Sept. 16 1 a.m. Stage 21 NBCSN

Noah Lyles a must-see in Paris; Diamond League TV, live stream schedule

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The last time Noah Lyles raced a Diamond League 200m, he became the fourth-fastest man in history. His follow-up comes against a field of similar strength in Paris on Saturday

Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs live coverage from 2-4 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage starting at noon.

Lyles could look to improve on the 19.50 he ran in Lausanne on July 5, when he moved to No. 4 on the all-time list behind Usain BoltYohan Blake and Michael Johnson. There’s reason to believe he can, given the Swiss race was into a slight headwind.

And because most of the major players from Lausanne are back for Paris. That includes Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev, who won the 2017 World title while Lyles was out injured.

Two more notables — Olympic bronze medalist Christophe Lemaitre of France and Nigeria’s Divine Oduduru, the third-fastest man this year — are in Saturday’s field after missing the July event.

Lyles may also be looking at Paris as a lead-up to the two biggest international meets of the year — a Diamond League final in Brussels on Sept. 6 and the world championships in Doha three weeks later.

Here are the Paris entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12:02 p.m. — Men’s Shot Put
12:35 — Women’s Triple Jump
1:17 — Women’s Discus
1:40 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:09 — Men’s High Jump
2:14 — Men’s 800m
2:24 — Women’s 100m
2:32 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:35 — Men’s 1500m
2:48 — Women’s 400m
2:57 — Men’s 200m
3:06 — Women’s 800m
3:29 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
3:50 — Men’s 110m Hurdles

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:40 p.m. ET
All six women who have cleared 4.80 meters this season are here, topped by world leader and London Olympic champion Jenn Suhr. But Suhr hasn’t won a top-level meet outside the U.S. since 2012. Watch out for Rio Olympic and world champ Katerina Stefanidi, the Greek who beat Suhr in Birmingham, Great Britain, last Sunday. And Olympic and world silver medalist Sandi Morris at her first Diamond League in two months.

Women’s 100m — 2:24 p.m. ET
Olympic champ Elaine Thompson takes her No. 1 world ranking into her first Diamond League 100m in two and a half months. Thompson rebounded from a blemished 2018 to win June’s Jamaican Championships in 10.73 seconds, cementing herself as the world championships favorite. Three other women in this field have a personal best in the 10.8s, including 2018 U.S. champion Aleia HobbsTeahna Daniels, the surprise 2019 U.S. champ, is coming off a third-place, 11.24 finish in Birmingham against a largely unaccomplished field.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:32 p.m. ET
Americans Christian Taylor and Will Claye go head-to-head for the 48th time in this event, according to Tilastopaja.org. Taylor, who owns five combined Olympic and world titles, has a 25-22 edge and hasn’t lost to his countryman on the Diamond League level in five years. But Claye, who owns five combined Olympic and world medals (but no gold), ranks No. 1 in the world this year with his personal-best 18.14-meter mark from June 29. The winner here is likely the favorite for worlds.

Men’s 200m — 2:57 p.m. ET
Lyles has never lost to anyone in this field in senior competition. In fact, only one man has beaten him in a 200m in the last three years, countryman Michael Norman, who is focusing on the 400m this summer. Last year, Lyles made a statement by breaking 19.8 in the 200m on four separate occasions, something only Usain Bolt had previously done. Lyles is at three sub-19.8s so far this season with at least three meets left.

Men’s 110m Hurdles — 3:50 p.m. ET
Grant Holloway
, the only man to break 13 seconds this year, makes his Diamond League debut after turning professional following his junior season at Florida. He takes on the second- and third-fastest men this year, including former NCAA rival Daniel Roberts, who upset Holloway at the USATF Outdoor Championships.

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