Mathieu van der Poel, cyclo-cross star, takes Tour de France yellow jersey

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MUR-DE-BRETAGNE, France (AP) — What his grandfather failed to do in 14 editions of the Tour de France, Mathieu van der Poel achieved at his first attempt.

The Tour debutant pointed a finger toward the sky in memory of his grandfather, Raymond Poulidor, as he crossed the finish line of the second stage at cycling’s biggest race on Sunday to snatch the coveted yellow jersey.

“It’s a shame he is not here, but what can I do,” the 26-year-old Van der Poel said about Poulidor, while holding back tears after his maiden Tour stage win following a blazing attack.

Poulidor, who died in November 2019, took part in 14 Tours from 1962-76, finishing in second place overall three times and third five times. Nicknamed “Poupou” and “The Eternal Runner-up,” Poulidor was adored by French fans but could never win the famed yellow tunic worn by the race leader after each stage.

“I imagine how proud he would be,” said Van der Poel, whose father, Adri, was also a professional cyclist and wore the yellow jersey for one day in 1984.

Van der Poel jumped out of the group of favorites in the 2-kilometer climb leading to Mur-de-Bretagne, where the finish was set. The Dutchman used his greater power with 700 meters left to drop all the main contenders in the long stretch of road.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Live Stream Schedule

Defending champion Tadej Pogacar was next across the line, six seconds back, and Primoz Roglic completed the stage podium.

“I knew today was my last chance to take the jersey, it’s incredible to succeed,” Van der Poel said.

A versatile rider, Van der Poel has won titles in many disciplines and plans to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in mountain bike. A quadruple cyclocross world champion, he also won the Strade Bianche earlier this year and the prestigious Tour of Flanders last year.

The powerfully built Van der Poel, however, is not among the main contenders at the Tour due to the high mountain and time-trialing elements of the race.

Sunday’s 183.5-kilometer (114-mile) route from Perros-Guirec did not feature a major difficulty until the finishing loop, including the iconic Mur-de-Bretagne ascent. Called the “Alpe d’Huez of Brittany” by the cycling-crazed Bretons because of its steep gradient, the climb was tackled twice Sunday and the finish line was set up at the top.

Van der Poel produced his first effort in the opening ascent to cross first at the summit and seize a time bonus of eight seconds that helped him claim the yellow jersey.

World champion Julian Alaphilippe, who had led after the first stage, ended the stage in fifth place.

“Yesterday he was disappointed not to win and came to see me to me to say he was happy for me,” Alaphilippe said. “Today it’s the same, we compete against each other throughout the year, we both like to attack. I’m very happy for him, he deserves it.”

Thanks to the time bonus, Van der Poel has an eight-second lead over Alaphilippe in the general classification. Pogacar is in third place, 13 seconds off the pace.

The peloton will remain in Brittany for Monday’s third stage, a flat 182.9-kilometer (113.6-mile) trek between Lorient and Pontivy which is tailor-made for sprinters.

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In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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