Mark Cavendish wins 31st Tour de France stage after 3-year absence

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FOUGERES, France (AP) — This time, they were happy tears.

In October last year, Mark Cavendish posted an insignificant 74th place at the Belgian classic Gent-Wevelgem. Depressed and dejected, with his contract with the Bahrain McLaren team almost over, the sprinter from the Isle of Man suggested in an emotional post-race interview it could well have been his final race.

On Tuesday at the Tour de France, the tears of sadness made way for those of happiness after the “Manx Missile” posted a 31st stage win at cycling’s biggest event.

“Just being here is special enough. I didn’t think I would ever get to come back to this race,” said Cavendish, the greatest sprinter in the race’s history.

The 36-year-old veteran sat on the road and cried after his triumph in the fourth stage. He was congratulated by teammates, who worked hard in the stage finale to put Cavendish in an excellent position for the sprint.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Live Stream Schedule

“You just see what a great team this is. You’ve got the green jersey, the world champion Julian Alaphilippe coming to do the final pull just to try to catch the breakaway, putting everything in,” Cavendish said. “So many people didn’t believe in me but these guys do.”

After all the doubts about his future, Cavendish secured a new contract with his former Deceuninck-Quick Step team. He convinced manager Patrick Lefevere he could perform at the top level again but he was not expected to ride at the Tour and did not train specifically for the three-week race.

He received a last-minute call-up earlier this month, as a replacement for Sam Bennett, the best sprinter of last year’s Tour.

“Three weeks ago I would not have imagined this,” said Cavendish, who is back at the Tour for the first time since 2018.

Lefevere’s bet paid off in the town of Fougeres, where Cavendish had already won in 2015. With a perfectly timed burst of speed — he reached an average speed of 63 kph (39 mph) in the last 500 meters — Cavendish edged Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni and Jasper Philipsen of Belgium.

Cavendish is second on the all-time list for the most stage wins behind Belgian great Eddy Merckx on 34. Cavendish’s previous stage win dated back to 2016.

Cavendish took a break from cycling after being diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus for the second time in 2018. The former world champion enjoyed a resurgence earlier this season with five stage wins after returning to Deceuninck-Quick Step.

Mathieu van der Poel kept the race leader’s yellow jersey with an eight-second lead over Alaphilippe ahead of Wednesday’s first time trial.

Riders staged a protest at the start of the 93.4-mile flat stage to complain about perceived dangerous racing conditions after a flurry of crashes in the previous days reignited the issue of road safety.

Having left the town of Redon in the western Brittany region to start Stage 4, the peloton rode at a moderate pace and all riders got off their bikes after about one kilometer. They waited silently for about a minute before hitting the road again.

After the crash-filled Stage 3, several riders have criticized race organizers for setting up what they considered a dangerous finale to a Tour stage, especially in the early days of the race when nervousness is at its highest level.

An early breakaway formed soon after the protest as Tour debutant Bret Van Moer and Pierre-Luc Perichon moved away from the pack. They collaborated well and had a maximum lead of more than three minutes before the peloton stepped up the pace.

Van Moer dropped Perichon with 14 kilometers left in a final shot at glory and produced a powerful effort to resist the peloton’s chase until the last 100 meters.

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Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record; David Wise wins first title in 5 years

Mark McMorris
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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, American David Wise earned his first major ski halfpipe title since repeating as Olympic champion in 2018. Wise landed back-to-back double cork 1260s to end his winning run, according to commentators.

“I wouldn’t still be out here if I didn’t think I had a chance,” Wise, 32 and now a five-time X Games Aspen champ, said on the broadcast. “I’m not going to be the guy who just keeps playing the game until everybody just begs me to stop.”

U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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