Mark Cavendish denied first chance at Tour de France record by breakaway


NIMES, France — Rarely in the spotlight, Nils Politt struggled to believe victory was his when it finally came at the Tour de France.

After dropping his last remaining rivals on the road leading to the city of Nimes in southern France, the German rider hit his helmet several times and shook his head as if to say, “I can’t believe it.”

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Live Stream Schedule

After the strange feeling sank in, with the finish in sight, Politt made a big heart sign with his hands and crossed the line on his own to post only the second stage win of his professional career.

Politt was part of a larger group that jumped out of the main pack in the early stages of the windy 99-mile stage 12 between Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux and Nimes.

The German rider from the Bora-Hansgrohe team had attacked with three other rivals from the 13-man breakaway group about 40 kilometers from the finish. He then went solo with 12 kilometers left with a sudden acceleration that was left unanswered.

“There were quite a lot of sprinters in our group, so I had to make the race hard and attack quite early,” Politt said. “I made first attack. I gave everything. To finish solo is unbelievable.”

Imanol Erviti and Harry Sweeny finished second and third, respectively, 31 seconds behind.

A one-day classic specialist, the 27-year-old Politt has posted many honorable results at prestigious events in the past, including a runner-up finish at Paris-Roubaix two years ago. But despite his combative skills, Politt had never tasted victory on the biggest stage.

“Winning a Tour stage is a dream, it’s really the best moment of my career,” he added through a translator. “It’s my second win, but here it’s different.”

Politt’s victory brought comfort to his team just hours after leader Peter Sagan withdrew from the race before the start of the stage due to a knee injury.

Race leader Tadej Pogacar rode with all other main contenders well behind the breakaway and crossed nearly 16 minutes behind the winner. With none of the breakaway riders a threat in the general classification, the defending champion enjoyed a quiet day in the peloton after strong crosswinds created splits in the early stages.

There was no significant change in the overall standings. Pogacar kept his 5:18 lead over second-placed Rigoberto Uran, with Jonas Vingegaard in third, 5:33 off the pace.

Friday’s stage 13 to the medieval city of Carcassone is an other flat trek suiting sprinters. Veteran sprinter Mark Cavendish will be chasing a 34th career stage win that would put him level with five-time Tour winner Eddy Merckx’s all-time record.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen

Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

Sifan Hassan

Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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