Tour de France: Ben O’Connor wins mountain stage, now second overall

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TIGNES, France — Defending champion Tadej Pogacar kept control of the Tour de France on a rain-soaked second day in the Alps as a crash-filled opening week took its toll on rivals on Sunday.

“I’m sure a lot of guys suffered today,” said Pogacar, who retained the race leader’s yellow jersey by responding when required in the ninth stage.

Both last year’s runner-up Primoz Roglic and former overall leader Mathieu van der Poel dropped out of the race before the grueling 90-mile route from Cluses to Tignes.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Live Stream Schedule

Australian rider Ben O’Connor won the stage after launching a solo break with 17 kilometers to go. Sergio Higuita was unable to follow the 25-year-old as O’Connor powered up the Col du Pré for the finish at Tignes.

O’Connor struggled to fight back tears after his first tour win.

“Just to be taking part on the Tour de France in the first place is a dream. Then to achieve a victory like this one is excellent, a great reward to everyone who has supported me over the years,” O’Connor said. “It’s been a wild ride.”

O’Connor finished more than five minutes ahead of Mattia Cattaneo and Sonny Colbrelli. Pogacar responded to a late attack by Richard Carapaz to defend his overall lead by finishing sixth, just over six minutes behind O’Connor.

UAE Team Emirates rider Pogacar has a lead of 2:01 over O’Connor in the general classification ahead of the first rest day on Monday.

Pogacar had doubts toward the end of the stage.

“I was scared that I might lose the yellow jersey just the day before the rest day,” Pogacar said. “I’m happy to keep it.”

Van der Poel held the yellow jersey for six days but relinquished it to Pogacar on Saturday.

“We decided with the team that it’s in my best interests to quit the race and focus on the Olympics now,” the Dutch rider said after pulling out.

Roglic crashed badly during Monday’s third stage in the western Brittany region and had been struggling since. The Jumbo-Visma team said the Slovenian rider would focus on new goals.

“We took the decision all together with the team, it doesn’t make sense to continue,” Roglic said.

Roglic performed well in Friday’s time trial, but suffered in the 151-kilometer (94-mile) route from Oyonnax to Le Grand-Bornand on Saturday, when Pogacar seized control of the race. Roglic was already almost 40 minutes behind his compatriot before Sunday’s stage.

Roglic said he surprised himself in the time trial but doubts returned in the first mountain stage Saturday when he was in a lot of pain.

“It’s just too much for my body at the moment and yeah, I cannot race,” the 31-year-old said. “I’m disappointed. I didn’t plan it to be the way it is, but in the end, I have to accept it.”

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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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