Tadej Pogacar takes Tour de France yellow jersey in mountains

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LE GRAND-BORNAND, France — Tadej Pogacar wagged his head and grinned, his blond hair slick from sweat and rain, his cheeks ruddy from the mountain cold and a colossal effort from smashing his remaining rivals at the Tour de France.

As he cooled down on the stationary bike, the defending champion seemed to have even surprised himself.

“Ah, what a ride. What a day,” he said, unable to wipe the smile of satisfaction off his face.

Pogacar dealt a demoralizing blow on the first day of the Tour in the Alps on Saturday, when cycling’s precocious star claimed the yellow jersey after what was a grueling eighth stage to everyone else.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Live Stream Schedule

Pogacar started the day 3 minutes, 43 seconds off the lead of Mathieu van der Poel. Five categorized climbs and nearly four hours later, Van der Poel finished more than 20 minutes off the pace. The Dutchman relinquished the lead he had held for six days when he faded fast midway through the brutal stage.

Wout van Aert remained in second place but fell from 30 seconds behind at the start of the stage to 1 minute, 48 seconds behind Pogacar.

Richard Carapaz finished more than three minutes behind Pogacar, slipping to five minutes back overall in fifth.

Pogacar solidified his bid to retain his Tour title after proving once again to be a step above the rest on the most demanding ascents. He set off on his own on the fourth climb, shedding Carapaz, the last man — and possible contender — to have kept on his wheel.

Pogacar finished the 151-kilometer (94-mile) route from Oyonnax to Le Grand-Bornand in fourth place, seconds behind stage winner Dylan Teuns.

Teuns, a Belgian rider for the Bahrain team, managed to conserve a slim lead over the hard-pushing Pogacar over the final peak before negotiating the tricky descent to the finish line.

While almost the entire field suffered from the climbs in the rain and low temperatures, Pogacar saw the opportunity to turn the race on its head.

“In the end I felt great, so before the last two climbs I said to my teammates, ’Let’s try and shake up the race,” Pogacar said.

Shake it up? He crushed it.

On Sunday, riders face a second day in the Alps with a 90-mile ride over four passes before a summit finish at Tignes. But given the gaps, even the top teams may be focusing on stage wins or the second and third spots on the podium.

The peloton was in poor shape to hold up in the mountains after a crash-filled opening week and Friday’s marathon 155-mile haul. The longest stage in the Tour in 21 years had exhausted all but a handful of riders.

And more pain was in store.

In an omen for what was to come, several cyclists were already struggling right from the start. The short ascent under steady rainfall heading into the Alpine forest broke the pack into bits.

Geraint Thomas, winner of the 2018 Tour, soon fell behind. Primoz Roglic quickly followed and his Jumbo Visma team left last year’s runner-up sadly alone. Both pre-race title hopefuls, who took tumbles in the first week, completely disconnected even before the serious ascents started.

Pogacar timed his devastating attack until the category-one Col de Romme.

While other riders were hunched over the handlebars, Pogacar rode high, raising off his seat to power ahead in pursuit of the breakaway riders.

Again showing that he does not need much help from his Emirates team, Pogacar rode the final 30 kilometers up and over the category-one Col de la Colombiere all on his own.

Pogacar made Tour history by becoming the youngest post-World War II champion at 21 last year when he stunned Roglic on the race’s penultimate day, overtaking his fellow countryman with a blistering time trial.

His display on the Col de Romme and the Col de la Colombiere is poised to be remembered as the defining moment of this edition barring a dramatic change of fortune.

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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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