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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Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

Emily Sisson
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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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