Tour de France cyclists bring Stage 4 to halt to protest crashes

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FOUGERES, France — Tour de France riders staged a protest at the start of Tuesday’s stage to complain about perceived dangerous racing conditions after a flurry of crashes 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.

Former world champion Philippe Gilbert said in a video that riders’ representatives asked for the Stage 3 timings to end with five kilometers left. The goal by the majority of riders was to avoid a risky final sprint in narrow and winding roads leading to the finish line.

“We had analyzed the route and saw that the finale was extremely dangerous,” said Gilbert, a Belgian classic specialist.

Gilbert said that race organizer ASO supported the proposal. “But the UCI (cycling’s governing body) commissaires did not accept the request, it was rejected in the morning at the start of the race,” he said.

Gilbert said a pileup on a downhill curve about three kilometers from the finish was a direct consequence.

“There was a big mistake from the people who approved this route,” he said.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Live Stream Schedule

Riders’ union CPA said in a statement it has asked the UCI to set up discussions to adapt the so-called “3-kilometer rule” during stage races. Under that regulation, riders who crash in the last three kilometers are awarded the time of the group they were riding with before they fell.

“This could avoid circumstances such as those which occurred in yesterday’s stage,” the union said. “Riders and CPA are determined to pursue changes for the safety and physical integrity of athletes. These changes are more necessary than ever.”

Thierry Gouvenou, who is in charge of the Tour route, told L’Equipe newspaper about the increasing challenges he faces to find finish sites without dangerous road materials.

“There are no longer any medium-sized towns without a small island, roundabout or narrowing,” he said. “Ten years ago, there were 1,100 dangerous points on the Tour de France. This year, there are 2,300. If the level of demand becomes too great, there will be no more finishes. That’s where we are.”

Gilbert did not put all the blame on the route on the UCI, though, saying the teams that scouted it before the race should have let know organizers about its dangers.

One of Gilbert’s teammates at the Lotto-Soudal team, ace sprinter Caleb Ewan, fell near the finish line as he contested the sprint and was forced to abandon with a broken collarbone.

Two top contenders for the yellow jersey — last year’s runner-up, Primoz Roglic, and 2018 champion Geraint Thomas — were involved in crashes on Monday, losing ground to their main rivals. But they fell on straight roads with no major difficulty and did not blame organizers.

Saturday’s opening stage was marred by two big pileups, one caused by a spectator holding a cardboard sign in the way of the peloton.

Calling for changes in the sport without offering solutions, veteran Groupama-FDJ sports director Marc Madiot called on all stakeholders to take their responsibilities “because if we don’t do it, we will have deaths and I don’t want to phone the family of the rider who will be in hospital forever. That’s not worthy of our sport.”

The last rider to die on the Tour was Fabio Casartelli, an Italian on the then-Motorola team of Lance Armstrong who crashed on the descent of the Portet d’Aspet pass in 1995. Many serious crashes have continued to mar the race since.

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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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