Sepp Kuss is first American to win Tour de France stage in 10 years

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ANDORRA LA VELLA, Andorra — Sepp Kuss couldn’t suppress a wide grin as he raced toward the finish line to become the first American in 10 years to win a stage at the Tour de France.

After winning Sunday’s grueling 15th stage, Kuss threw his sunglasses into the crowd and put his arms in the air before covering his face, succumbing to emotion and exhaustion.

Tyler Farrar had been the last American to win a stage at cycling’s biggest race in 2011.

“It’s incredible, I’m lost for words,” Kuss said.

The 26-year-old Colorado native left it late to make his move in the punishing 118-mile ride from Ceret at the foothills of the Pyrenees to the tiny mountain-bound nation of Andorra.

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“This was Sepp’s day,” said Jumbo-Visma teammate Wout van Aert, who helped put Kuss in a position to break. “He lives in Andorra and he was looking forward to this stage.”

The American attacked going up the 1,796-meter Col de Beixalis and maintained his hard-fought advantage over Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde, who finished 23 seconds behind.

“To be honest, I was suffering a lot in this Tour de France. I didn’t feel like I had the spice in the legs. Today I knew it was finishing where I live, so I was motivated for the stage,” Kuss said.

Col de Beixalis was the steepest climb in a day of many ascents in the Pyrenees. Kuss’ average speed going up was 12.7 mph, and 36 mph going down, where he clocked a maximum speed of 50 mph.

“I don’t ride to Col de Beixalis much in training because it’s so hard, but I knew if I had a good gap, I’d stay away till the finish. Wout van Aert did a great job for me in the valley. It means a lot to me to win a Tour de France stage,” Kuss said.

Dutch rider Wout Poels finished third and took over the polka dot jersey for the best climber.

“It’s obviously going to be a great battle for the mountains jersey,” Poels said.

Race leader Tadej Pogacar enjoyed an uneventful day and remained on course for his second overall victory.

The defending champion was only questioned toward the end of the stage as Jonas Vingegaard followed Ben O’Connor’s example with two attacks.

Pogacar answered both without any problems and increased his overall lead to more than five minutes over Rigoberto Uran and Vingegaard.

“I felt good, and I wasn’t worried at all about the last climb. I just needed to follow the other riders there, as I did,” Pogacar said. “My team did a great job at protecting me all day long, providing me with everything I needed. The key today was to keep myself hydrated, to have water available all the time, and my teammates did that job perfectly.”

Guillaume Martin, who was second overall ahead of the stage, dropped back to ninth.

Before the final tussles on Col de Beixalis, riders had to overcome the 2,408-meter Port d’Envalira, where Nairo Quintana made a break after a strong headwind forced riders across the road. Quintana was first to the summit before he was hauled back. Quintana tried again on Col de Beixalis before Kuss took over.

Nacer Bouhanni, who had been suffering since a big crash on Stage 13, quit after the intermediate sprint with 124.5 kilometers remaining.

The rest of the riders have a chance to recover on the tour’s second rest day Monday before more climbs await on Tuesday.

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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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