Slovenia’s Matej Mohoric earns first Tour stage win; Roglic out of contention

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LE CREUSOT, France — On the eve of the Tour de France’s first Alpine stage, the standings were given a serious shakeup.

After the longest stage on the Tour in 21 years on Friday, 2020 runner-up Primoz Roglic was out of contention.

Slovenian countryman Tadej Pogacar, the defending champion, lost a big chunk of the time he gained earlier this week in the individual time trial.

And Belgian star Wout van Aert positioned himself as Pogacar’s most dangerous rival.

With its hilly profile, the 249-kilometer (155-mile) Stage 7 from Vierzon to Le Creusot produced a Tour de France classic as another Slovenian, Matej Mohoric, earned his first stage win on the Tour following a long breakaway.

Mohoric was part of a group that formed more than 200 kilometers before the finish line. He went solo in the finale, using a tough climb to drop his remaining breakaway companions and reach the finish line alone.

Mathieu van der Poel looked exhausted when he crossed 1 minute, 40 seconds behind but he kept the yellow jersey with a 30-second advantage over Van Aert.

“It was 250 kilometers full gas,” Van der Poel said. “It went really fast and we managed to break away with a really strong group, it was really hard. I went to the limit to keep this jersey, which is really special.”

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Pogacar could not get into the breakaway and rode at the back with other top contenders after his UAE Team Emirates reacted too late and could not bridge the gap. Pogacar lost more than five minutes and dropped to fifth overall, 3:43 off the pace.

“We tried to close really fast … but they were pulling like crazy from the beginning” Pogacar said.

Despite big efforts deployed throughout the day by his teammates to limit the damage, Pogacar remained confident they will recover in time for Saturday’s first Alpine stage to Le Grand-Bornand.

“I know my team and I know they are strong,” he said.

The day’s biggest loser was Roglic, who crashed earlier in the race. Roglic struggled in the climb on Friday. He managed to get to the finish with a deficit exceeding nine minutes and his hopes of winning the three-week race were effectively over, barring an incredible comeback.

Roglic will likely abandon the Jumbo-Visma leadership and work in support of Van Aert. While Van der Poel is expected to struggle in the high mountains, Van Aert has proved in the past he can climb with the best. His phenomenal turns in the big climbs during last year’s race were crucial to lifting Roglic onto the podium.

Van Aert is also an excellent time trialist and should have a shot at the yellow jersey despite his claims he is “too heavy” to perform well in the mountains.

“But for now I’m still in a good position and it’s nice to give it a go like this,” he said. “Also, today was really, really hard, I first need to recover and see what I can do tomorrow when the real mountain starts.”

Mohoric, who rides for the Bahrain Victorious team, has stage wins now at all three Grand Tours. He seized the best climber’s polka-dot jersey.

“The stage I won in the Vuelta was also the longest stage in the race that year, and the same goes for the stage in the Giro,” he said. “I’m good in these super long, not so brutal efforts. I can keep up with a good pace for a very long time.”

The strong headwind made it difficult for riders to jump out of the pack in the early stages. After many unsuccessful attempts, a group of 29 including Van der Poel and Van Aert managed to get away.

Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates teammates were caught off guard. When they finally moved to the front of the peloton to organize the chase, it was too late. They tried to set up a sustained tempo but were left to do all of the work as rival teams did not move.

The leading group collaborated well and quickly built a one-minute lead. Van der Poel took long turns at the front of a bunch which included former Grand Tours champions Vincenzo Nibali and Simon Yates and 10 former Tour stage winners. They rode at an impressive average speed of more than 51 kph in the first hour of racing and the time gap gradually increased to reach more than 6:30 with 90 kilometers left.

Behind them, the peloton upped the pace with more teams working at the front. The gap started to decrease when Mohoric and Brent Van Moer dropped their breakaway companions.

With 78 kilometers to go, the pair created a consistent gap as previously effective cooperation in the group including Van Aert and Van der Poel made way for a series of disorganized attacks.

Mohoric went solo in the tough climb of the Signal d’Uchon, an ascent with an average gradient of 11.5% in its last 1,500 meters. The Slovenian rider crossed first at the top and prolonged his impressive effort until the finish line.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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