Michael Matthews wins Tour de France stage 14 after solo ride

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MENDE, France — Michael Matthews soloed to victory on the 14th stage of the Tour de France on Saturday when defending champion Tadej Pogacar tried in vain to regain time on leader Jonas Vingegaard.

Matthews’ fourth stage win came five years after the Australian last tasted victory in France.

The one-day classic specialist was in a group of 23 riders who broke from the pack after a frenetic start to the stage punctuated by a flurry of attacks on hilly ground from Saint-Etienne to Mende.

After spending the day at the front of the race, Matthews looked like he was about to crack when he was caught by Italian Alberto Bettiol on the last climb, but his grit helped him stay in contention and launch a counterattack that paid off.

“Matthews put on a show. He has days like that when he is very strong,” said French rider Thibaut Pinot, who completed the stage podium behind Matthews and Bettiol. “He really amazes me. Doing the sprints he does, and climbing like he does, in his field he is the best.”

With its constant ups and downs, the stage profile through the Massif Central was ideal for a breakaway. Not surprisingly, many riders with no personal ambition in the general classification were on the attack from the off to tear apart the peloton.

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More surprisingly, defending champion Pogacar was also on the move as he tried to upset his rivals just 10 kilometers into the 193-kilometer route, forcing Vingegaard to react and chase.

The unorthodox strategy played havoc in the bunch as Primoz Roglic, a key lieutenant of Vingegaard within the Jumbo-Visma team, struggled at the back.

Belgian allrounder Wout van Aert, also riding for Jumbo-Visma, worked hard to pace his leader through the mayhem and things finally calmed down after an hour of spectacular and brutal racing as the group of main contenders eased the pace to let the breakaway form.

Matthews, from the BikeExchange-Jayco team, launched a solo effort about 50 kilometers from the finish and reduced the leading group to just four men.

He was joined at the front by Bettiol in the Côte de la Croix Neuve, a short but punishing three-kilometer ascent with a gradient of more than 10% followed by a short descent across the airfield to the finish line.

Matthews fought hard to stay in Bettiol’s wheel then countered his rival near the top of the climb and never looked back.

The truce in the group of main contenders lasted until the Côte de la Croix Neuve when Pogacar attacked again. Vingagaard was unimpressed and followed at ease, with the pair crossing the line 12 minutes, 34 seconds behind.

Overall, Vingegaard leads Pogacar, still by two minutes, 22 seconds. Geraint Thomas, who was dropped by the pair in the final climb, was third, 2:43 off the pace.

Before Monday’s rest day and a final week marked by the crossing of the Pyrenees and an individual time trial before the race reaches Paris in eight days, Sunday’s stage from Rodez to Carcassonne should favor sprinters.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”