Mark Cavendish ties Eddy Merckx’s record 34 Tour de France stage wins

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CARCASSONNE, France — Mark Cavendish won a mass sprint and equaled cycling great Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 stage wins at the Tour de France on Friday.

Taking part in cycling’s biggest race for the first time since 2018, the 36-year-old Cavendish has been dominating the sprints this summer. The British rider posted his fourth stage win by taking Stage 13 which finished in the southern city of Carcassonne.

Cavendish secured a new contract with his former Deceuninck Quick Step team for this year 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 Sam Bennett, the best sprinter of last year’s Tour.

Cavendish has never won the Tour de France. Merckx won it five times.

Known as “The Manx Missile” as he comes from the Isle of Man, Cavendish jostled for position in the last two kilometers to stay on the wheel of lead-out man Michael Morkov. He looked trapped in traffic with 300 meters left but zigzagged to the front and comfortably won ahead of Morkov. Jasper Philipsen was third.

“I can’t even think about (the record). I’m afraid I’m so dead after 220 kilometers in that heat, that wind and that finale,” Cavendish said. “I went deep, I went so deep there. The boys were incredible. I can’t believe it. A lot of the day it didn’t feel like it, but it had to happen because I had the guys riding like they were. I was so on the limit there.”

There was no significant change in the general classification as race leader Tadej Pogacar enjoyed a quiet day in the peloton. Pogacar kept his 5:18 lead over second-placed Rigoberto Uran, with Jonas Vingegaard in third, 5:33 off the pace.

The race animated immediately with a flurry of attacks in the early stages of the 220-kilometer trek in southern France. But Cavendish’s teammates set a fast tempo at the front to prevent large group of riders from breaking away, determined to ensure a mass sprint in the end.

They responded to every dangerous move and relaxed only when a trio of riders formed, knowing that it would be impossible for them to beat the chase of the pack later in the day.

Omer Goldstein, Pierre Latour and Sean Bennett worked well together but were kept on a tight leash.

In the shadow of large plane trees scattered across the route through the Languedoc vineyards, the leading trio was reduced to a pair when Latour and Goldstein dropped Bennett. They were reined in with 50 kilometers left after a crash involving dozens of riders briefly split the peloton. British cyclist Simon Yates, the 2018 Spanish Vuelta champion, was among those who hit the ground and abandoned.

Frenchman Quentin Pacher then launched an ill-fated solo effort to build a lead of more than a minute before Deceuninck Quick Step riders dramatically sped up the pace to swallow him about 19 kilometers from the finish.

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Svetlana Romashina, seven-time Olympic champion artistic swimmer, retires

Svetlana Romashina
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Russian Svetlana Romashina, the most decorated artistic swimmer in Olympic history with seven gold medals, announced her retirement at age 33.

Romashina entered seven Olympic artistic swimming events and won all of them, starting in 2008. She won four Olympic titles in the team event and three in the duet (two with Nataliya Ishchenko and one with Svetlana Kolesnichenko).

The Tokyo Games marked her last major competition.

Romashina is the only woman to go undefeated in her Olympic career while entering seven or more events. The only man to do so was American track and field athlete Ray Ewry, who won all eight of his Olympic starts from 1900-08, according to Olympedia.org.

Romashina also won 21 world championships medals — all gold, second in aquatics history behind Michael Phelps‘ 26.

She took nearly two years off after giving birth to daughter Alexandra in November 2017, then came back to win three golds at her last world championships in 2019 and two golds at her last Olympics in 2021.

Romashina is now an artistic swimming coach, according to Russian media.

Russian swimmers swept the Olympic duet and team titles at each of the last six Olympics.

Russians have been banned from international competition since March due to the war in Ukraine.

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Mikaela Shiffrin, three gates from gold, skis out of world championships combined

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Mikaela Shiffrin was three gates from a record-tying seventh world championships gold medal when she lost her balance and straddled a gate, skiing out of the first race of worlds on Monday.

Italian Federica Brignone won the women’s combined instead, prevailing by 1.62 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener, the largest Olympic or world championships men’s or women’s margin of victory in the event since it switched from three runs to two in 2007.

Austrian Ricarda Haaser took bronze in an event that is one run of super-G followed by one run of slalom.

At 32, Brignone, the 2020 World Cup overall champion, won her first global title and became the oldest female world champion in any event.

“What was missing in my career was a gold medal,” she said. “So I’m old. No, I’m just kidding.”

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Shiffrin was sixth fastest in the opening super-G run, 96 hundredths behind Brignone. She skied aggressively in the slalom in a bid to beat Brignone. Shiffrin cut the gap to eight hundredths by the last intermediate split with about 10 seconds left on the course in Meribel, France.

Shiffrin looked set to overtake Brignone until tripping up slightly with five gates left. It compounded, and Shiffrin couldn’t save the run, losing control, straddling the third-to-last gate and skiing out. The timing system still registered her finish — 34 hundredths faster than Brignone — but it was quickly corrected to the obvious disqualification.

Asked on French TV if she lost focus, Shiffrin said, “People are going to say that no matter what.”

“The surface changed a little bit on these last gates, so [on pre-race] inspection I saw it’s a bit more unstable on the snow,” she added. “I tried to be aware of that, but I knew that if I had a chance to make up nine tenths on Federica, or more than that, like one second, I had to push like crazy. So I did, and I had a very good run. I’m really happy with my skiing.”

It marked Shiffrin’s first time skiing out since she did so in three races at last February’s Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth in five races. At the Olympics, she skied out within the first 13 seconds in each instance. On Monday, she was more than 40 seconds into her run.

“I was thinking, now I’m going to go through the mixed zone. and everyone’s going to ask, ‘Oh, is this Beijing again?'” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t really think about that for myself, but more for the people asking. But I also said before, coming into this world champs multiple times, I’m not afraid if it happens again. What if I don’t finish every run? What happened last year, and I survived. And then I’ve had some pretty amazing races this season. So I would take the season that I’ve had with no medals at the world championships. If it’s either/or, then I would take that. I’m happy with it. But I’m going to be pushing for medals, because that’s what you do at world champs. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you go for it. I’m not afraid of the consequences, as long as I have that mentality, which I had today.”

NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said what happened Monday was “completely different” from the Olympics, calling it “an error of aggression.”

“It certainly wasn’t nerves that sent her out,” Porino said on the Peacock broadcast. “This was Shiffrin knowing that she had to have a huge run to get the gold medal.

“The way she went out this time, I think she can brush that one off.”

Shiffrin was bidding to tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12). Coming into Monday, she earned a medal in her last 10 world championships races dating to 2015.

Her next chance to match those records comes in Wednesday’s super-G, where she is a medal contender. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel is the world’s top-ranked super-G skier through five races on the World Cup this season, though she was 71 hundredths behind Brignone in Monday’s super-G run.

Shiffrin has raced two super-Gs this season with a win and a seventh place.

She is expected to race three more times over the two-week worlds, which is separate from the World Cup circuit that she has torn up this season.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts across all disciplines since November, moving her one shy of the career victories record of 86 accumulated by Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and ’80s. Again, world championships races do not count toward the World Cup, which picks back up after worlds end in late February.

Worlds continue Tuesday with the men’s combined.

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