Mark Cavendish wins Tour de France stage, one shy of Eddy Merckx’s record

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VALENCE, France — Mark Cavendish’s fairy tale at the Tour de France is a never-ending story.

Only months after he contemplated retirement, the 36-year-old British veteran is now just one win away from tying Eddy Merckx’s record haul of 34 stage wins at cycling’s biggest race.

Cavendish won the 10th stage in a mass sprint Tuesday as Tadej Pogacar kept the race leader’s yellow jersey.

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Back at the Tour for the first time since 2018, Cavendish has been dominating the sprints this summer, with three stage wins under his belt already.

In Valence, the sprinter from the Isle of Man once again enjoyed a perfect lead-out from his Deceuninck-Quick Step teammates and comfortably edged Belgians Wout van Aert and Jasper Philipsen.

“It was an old-school, run-of-the-mill, like you read in the cycling magazines, textbook lead-out,” Cavendish said. “Just getting the lads on the front, pull as fast as they can so no one can come past you… I just had to finish it off. I’m grateful to all of them. I didn’t have to do anything. Just the last 150 meters. I’m thankful to everyone.”

Cavendish has no rival to his measure, especially with the absence of teammate and sprinter Sam Bennett, whom he replaced at the last minute — and after Caleb Ewan crashed out early in the race. He also enjoys the collective experience and force of his team, the best outfit when it comes to one-day racing.

“It’s a bit like with a center-forward in soccer,” Thomas Voeckler, a former Tour rider turned commentator for public broadcaster France TV, said after the finish. “When they score, they keep on going. It’s the same with sprinters.”

Cavendish secured a new contract with his former team for the 2021 season after returning from a bout of depression and several seasons of struggles on and off the bike. But he was not expected to ride in the Tour and did not train specifically for the three-week race. He was a late call-up last month as a replacement for Bennett, the best sprinter of last year’s Tour.

Cavendish has returned with a vengeance, as if the long absence had whetted his appetite for victory. The way he fought during the daunting Stage 9 in the Alps to make sure he made the time cut to stay in the race spoke volumes about his determination to see the Champs-Elysees one more time.

Having survived the Alpine stages in terrible weather conditions, Cavendish will have more opportunities to equal or beat Merckx’s record. And if he manages to reach the finish line in two week’s time, the best sprinter’s green jersey he currently dons will be another target.

Following two hard stages in the Alps contested in terrible weather conditions, Pogacar finished safely in the main pack. The defending champion was on his guard in the last 20 kilometers on roads open to crosswinds and pushed hard to remain at the front as the peloton split in small groups.

Earlier, Tosh Van der Sande, from the Lotto-Soudal team attacked from the start and was joined at the front by Astana rider Hugo Houle.

With neither a threat in the general classification, the peloton was happy to let them go as the sun returned to the Tour de France route.

The pair quickly opened a gap of six minutes in less than 20 kilometers but could not keep on the same speed for long. Their lead shrank to four minutes as they approached the day’s lone climb — the Col de Couz — and the breakaway was put to an end about 36 kilometers from the finish.

Pogacar has already stamped his authority on the race. He avoided the crashes that pushed some pre-race favorites out of contention, asserted his authority during the first time trial and attacked relentlessly in the mountains to open a 2:01 gap over his closest rival, Ben O’Connor of Australia.

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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