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Tour de France shortens decisive stage due to weather

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The violent weather that forced an early stoppage of Friday’s Stage 19 of the Tour de France has also forced organizers to re-route and shorten Stage 20, the last chance for anyone to shake up the standings.

Colombian rider Egan Bernal, who took the yellow jersey Friday in addition to his firm grip on the white jersey as the Tour’s best young rider, will have an easier-than-expected task Saturday, with only one climb on a route of 59.5 kilometers (37 miles). The day’s racing was originally scheduled to be more than twice that far at 130 kilometers (81 miles), with multiple opportunities for the rest of the tightly packed group at the top of the overall standings to attack.

The good news for France is that Julien Alaphilippe, who was in tears yesterday after losing his yellow jersey in the midst of a descent that played to his strengths as a technical rider, now has more of a chance to remain on the podium. Alaphilippe’s demotion was one of two sad events for the host nation on Friday — contender Thibaut Pinot withdrew with a thigh injury.

But the remaining climb is still a difficult beyond-category trek to Val Thorens. Cyclists will spend 33.4 kilometers on an average grade of 5.4% on the way to a height of 2,365 meters (7,759 feet).

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And the top five riders all have a legitimate shot at the podium, if not the win. Alaphilippe, who was expected to give up the yellow jersey when the Tour hit the mountains but climbed better than expected, is 45 seconds behind Bernal. Defending champion Geraint Thomas (Great Britain) is next at 1:11 behind, with Dutch rider Steven Kruijswijk and German rider Emanuel Buchman also within two minutes of the lead and 45 seconds of the podium.

Sunday’s final stage is traditionally a ceremonial ride to Paris in which no one attacks the yellow jersey.

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Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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