Miguel Angel Lopez wins Tour de France queen stage; Primoz Roglic ups lead

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MERIBEL, France — Colombian rider Miguel Angel Lopez won the toughest mountain stage of this year’s Tour de France, while race leader Primož Roglic added a few crucial seconds to his advantage over rival Tadej Pogacar.

Roglic finished 15 seconds behind Lopez in second place, while Pogacar trudged over the line 30 seconds behind Lopez in third.

The 170-kilometer (105.4-mile) trek’s final ascent to the Méribel ski station was the high point of this year’s race at 2,304 meters, winding up a Loze pass never before ridden and with tortuous gradients of 24%.

Lopez timed his attack perfectly with just under 3 kilometers to go while Roglic accelerated away from Pogacar, who clawed some of the gap back but may have bid farewell to his chances of winning the Tour.

Roglic is 57 seconds ahead of Pogacar with four stages remaining. Lopez overtook Rigoberto Urán to move up to third overall and is 1 minute, 26 seconds behind Roglic heading into another testing mountain stage on Thursday. Urán dropped to sixth.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

As riders tackled the steepest section of the Loze, where tarmac was laid last year on a mountain path which is only open to bikes, Pogacar increased the pace with about four kilometers left while Roglič tucked behind him and Uran was dropped.

Lopez then attacked and went after Richard Carapaz, one of five riders who had formed an early breakaway group and the last to be caught with 3 kilometers remaining.

With Lopez surging ahead, Roglič attacked his Slovenian countryman Pogacar, who responded well near the end to limit the damage.

French President Emmanuel Macron was on hand to applaud Lopez when he crossed the finish line after 4 hours, 49 minutes and 8 seconds of a grueling trek which featured two of the hardest climbs known as Hors Categorie, or beyond category.

Earlier, Macron had been a keen spectator in race director Christian Prudhomme’s red car, and as the camera pointed at them they were seen applying hand sanitizing gel. Prudhomme recently returned to the race following a period in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The others in the early breakaway group were Julian Alaphilippe, Dan Martin, Gorka Izagirre and Lennard Kämna, the winner of Tuesday’s stage with a solo effort.

They upped the tempo as they passed the stunning Château de Miolans, a fortress perched on a hilltop which the Counts of Savoy turned into a prison that French nobleman the Marquis de Sade escaped from in the late 18th century.

By the time they reached the foot of the Madeleine pass — the first of the day’s two HC climbs — they were about six minutes up on the yellow jersey group. The Madeleine is one of the most famed on the Tour and the second-highest summit on this year’s race at 2,000 meters.

When they reached the top after an ascent of 17.1 kilometers (10.6 miles) their lead over the yellow jersey group had been whittled down to 1:15.

Sam Bennett kept the green jersey for best sprinter but Benoit Cosnefroy faded early in the final ascent and lost his best climber’s polka-dot jersey to Pogacar.

Defending champion Egan Bernal pulled out before Wednesday’s stage. The Colombian had been struggling since Friday’s stage in the Jura mountains, where he dropped more than seven minutes on the main contenders.

Stage 18 from Méribel is 175 kilometers (108.5 miles) long and another demanding one with an early Category 1 climb, followed by another one up the Aravis pass and the Hors Categorie Plateau des Glières before an undulating descent to La Roche-sur-Foron.

MORE: How Roglic beat Luka Doncic in Slovenia

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Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal rekindle record bids at French Open

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Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will play on the same day at the French Open through the quarterfinals, assuming each advances that far and the weather doesn’t wreak havoc. Each time they walk on the crushed red clay, the legends move closer to tying all-time records.

Williams, in her 10th bid since returning from childbirth to tie Margaret Court‘s 24 Grand Slam singles titles, battled and then rolled past 102nd-ranked countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0.

“I just need to play with more confidence, like I’m Serena,” she said of the difference between a 74-minute first set and a 27-minute second set. “I love the clay, and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding.”

Nadal, in his second major since moving within one of Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Slam titles, swept 83rd-ranked Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Their pursuits are very different.

Williams is already the greatest player in history by many measures, especially considering most of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and some at the Australian Open without the world’s best players.

Williams has lost all four of her major finals since her life-threatening childbirth. But she is not the favorite in Paris, despite the absence of 2019 champion Ash Barty of Australia and recent U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka. Williams hasn’t made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in four years and just went 16 months between competitive matches on clay.

She’s also battling an Achilles injury that affected her during a U.S. Open semifinal run three weeks ago. She’s spent most of her preparation time in France rehabbing.

“A ton of prayer,” she said, noting coming early to a post-match press conference to maximize her subsequent time handling the Achilles. “I’m doing so much for it.”

None of Williams’ potential first three opponents have ever beaten her. Next up: Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Like Williams, Nadal next plays on Wednesday. He gets Mackenzie McDonald, one of six American men to so far reach round two, the most since 1998.

For more than a decade, followers have debated the greatest male player in history between Nadal and Federer (and now Novak Djokovic). But not until winning the 2019 U.S. Open did Nadal move within one Slam of Federer’s total.

Now, Nadal can tie Federer and pass the Swiss if he wins the next two French Opens (and Federer doesn’t win the next Australian Open).

Nadal is going for his 13th crown in Paris, as usual downplaying his favorite status. This time, he’s noting the cool, slow, autumnal conditions and a new brand of tennis ball that is disadvantageous.

“Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros,” Nadal, who skipped the U.S. Open, said last week. “The conditions are a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament.”

Federer is not playing after two knee operations. Nadal, who at 34 is five years younger than Federer, has the opportunity in the coming matches and months to tip the scales in his favor. And help deny Djokovic, who is 33 with 17 Slams.

Nadal is not one to engage in that GOAT debate. Turns out, neither is Williams.

“You can’t compare two people that are equally great,” she said of Nadal and Federer. “I don’t understand why people want to pit who’s this, who’s that? They both have spectacular careers that 99 percent of people can only dream of and they both deserve.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310.

Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
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Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

MORE: Orser reacts to Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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