OlympicTalk

Simone Biles, her name sparkling, extends 6-year win streak

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Simone Biles has long stood out for her gymnastics, but on Saturday she competed with her last name sparkling in silver beads on her World Champions Centre leotard for the first time. The gym’s other athletes had “WCC” on the back.

Biles lived up to the billing, extending her six-year win streak to 19 straight all-arounds, capturing the U.S. Classic, a tune-up for next month’s U.S. Championships.

Biles, the four-time Rio Olympic champion, scored 60 points in Louisville at the meet where she made her comeback last year after nearly two years off from competition. She prevailed by a comfortable 2.1 points over Riley McCusker, her largest margin of victory of her four U.S. Classic titles.

“I’m very satisfied,” she said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I’m a little sad that I went out of bounds on floor [exercise], but overall I feel like there are improvements to be made.”

Full results are here.

Biles is prepping for nationals in Kansas City in three weeks, when she eyes a sixth U.S. all-around title to tie Clara Schroth Lomady‘s record from the AAU era in the 1940s and ’50s.

Then come the world championships in October in Stuttgart, Germany. Biles could win a fifth all-around to move one shy of Kohei Uchimura‘s record.

The world’s other top gymnasts may be her countrywomen.

Biles was outscored on balance beam on Saturday by 2018 World teammates Kara Eaker and McCusker and beaten on uneven bars by 2017 World all-around champion Morgan HurdSunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and McCusker. Biles swept all the gold medals at last year’s nationals.

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Geraint Thomas struggles; Julian Alaphilippe ups Tour de France lead

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LA MONGIE, France (AP) — When the team of Geraint Thomas was in its pomp at the Tour de France, a time trial followed by a big mountain stage would have been playgrounds for Sky — now in new colors as Ineos — to take cycling’s greatest race by the scruff of the neck and leave everyone else fighting for second place.

Not this year.

Thomas, the defending champion, cracked on Saturday on the Tour’s first encounter with a climb to above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), exposing unprecedented weaknesses in his team that has won six Tours in the past seven years.

The time trial on Friday and the climb up to the legendary Tourmalet pass on Saturday seemed primed for Thomas to reel in Julian Alaphilippe, the yellow jersey-holder from France who is setting the Tour alight with his punchy riding and determination to keep the race lead, filling French fans’ heads with dreams of a first homegrown winner since 1985.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

But instead, Thomas has seen Alaphilippe only get further and further away. In two days, the Frenchman has put 50 seconds of extra daylight between him and the Welshman. His lead — up to 2 minutes, 2 seconds — is becoming large enough to start realistically envisioning Alaphilippe in yellow in Paris next weekend as the first French winner since Bernard Hinault.

Fueling the ecstasy of delirious crowds that lined Saturday’s steep uphill finish, French rider Thibaut Pinot won Stage 14, putting him back in the picture to fight for the podium after he lost mountains of time on Stage 10.

Thomas rightly pointed out that the Tour is far from done, with six more ascents to above 2,000 meters still to come.

But his inability to stay with Pinot, Alaphilippe and other title contenders at the top of the Tourmalet — he was eighth, 36 seconds behind Pinot — was a mini-earthquake for the Tour dominated by his British team since 2012 — with champions Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and, in 2018, Thomas.

“Not the best day. I just didn’t feel quite on it from the start. I was quite weak,” Thomas said.

“At the end I knew I just had to pace it. I didn’t really attempt to follow when they kicked. I just thought I should ride my own pace rather than follow them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end. It’s disappointing. I just tried to limit the damage.”

Having taken cycling to a new level since 2012 with its vast budget and attention to the minutest of details, the team run by David Brailsford has been hit both by misfortune and by the inevitability that, eventually, other teams would start to close the gap.

A horror crash in training for four-time winner Froome, now recovering from career-threatening broken bones, robbed the team of its ace. Thomas’ own preparations were hampered by a crash at the Tour of Switzerland last month.

And Egan Bernal, being groomed by Brailsford to succeed Froome and Thomas, looks increasingly unable to compete for the title this year. Bernal was fifth on the Tourmalet and is fourth overall, 3 minutes behind Alaphilippe.

Pinot, now sixth overall and 3:12 behind Alaphilippe, is showing remarkable grit in bouncing back from his Stage 10 misfortune, when he was part of a group that got separated from other title contenders in crosswinds.

“I have this rage inside me, because in my opinion it was an injustice,” said Pinot, a podium finisher in 2014.

“Since the start of the Tour I had this stage in the back of my mind. The Tourmalet, it’s mythical,” said Pinot, who has three career stage wins at the Tour.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on hand at the top of the Tourmalet to see Pinot win and Alaphilippe extend his lead, gushed about the “two fantastic riders.”

“They attack and they have heart,” Macron said.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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Yohan Blake, Andre De Grasse beaten at London Diamond League

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South African Akani Simbine beat Olympic medalists Yohan Blake and Andre De Grasse in the London Diamond League 100m on Saturday.

Simbine, fifth at the most recent Olympics and world championships, clocked 9.93 seconds at the 2012 Olympic Stadium. He held off Brit Zharnel Hughes (9.95), while the 2012 Olympic silver medalist Blake was third (9.97) and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist De Grasse was fifth (9.99).

The race lacked the fastest men of 2019 — Americans Christian Coleman (9.81), Noah Lyles (9.86) and Justin Gatlin (9.87) and NCAA champion Divine Oduduru of Nigeria (9.86).

The meet concludes Sunday, live on NBC Sports Gold at 8:50 a.m. ET. U.S. stars are skipping this stop to prepare for the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships next weekend, where world championships spots are at stake.

In other events Saturday, world championships 800m favorite Nijel Amos of Botswana was wheeled off in a chair after grabbing the back of his right upper leg and stopping just after the start of the race. Eight days ago, Amos clocked the world’s fastest 800m since David Rudisha‘s world record at the London Olympics.

In his absence, Kenyan Ferguson Rotich won in 1:43.14, which was 1.25 seconds off Amos’ time from the previous Diamond League meet. Rudisha hasn’t competed in two years due to injury.

In the 5000m, Norwegian 18-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen lowered his personal best by 15.04 seconds in finishing second to Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet, who won by .17 of a second in 13:01.86. Ingebrigtsen ranks Nos. 2 and 9 in the world this year in the 1500m (his best event) and the 5000m. Gebrhiwet won two weeks after miscounting laps in the Lausanne Diamond League, celebrating 400 meters too early and ending up 10th.

World 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm broke the European record in 47.12, the seventh-fastest time in history. Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba and American Rai Benjamin, who went faster in 2018, were not in Saturday’s race.

Jamaican Danielle Williams won the 100m hurdles in 12.32 seconds, a national record and the world’s fastest time in two years. World-record holder Kendra Harrison and Olympic champion Brianna McNeal were not in the field.

Olympic champion Elaine Thompson took the 200m in 22.13, the fourth-fastest in the world this year. Thompson owns the fastest time of 2019, a 22.00 from the Jamaican Championships on June 23.

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