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Hannah Roberts, U.S. star in new Olympic event, claims another world title

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Her event may be new to the Olympics, but Hannah Roberts is well established as one of the U.S.’ top gold-medal hopes for the Tokyo Games.

Roberts, 18, won her second world title in three years in BMX freestyle, a judged cycling event debuting at the Olympics next summer.

The Michigan native scored 90 points for the win in Chengdu, China, on Sunday, becoming the first woman to land a 360 tailwhip in competition. It capped a dominant season for Roberts, who previously won all three World Cup events.

She goes into the Olympic year leading a deep U.S. squad. Roberts earned bronze at the 2018 Worlds as part of a podium sweep with Perris Benegas and Angie Marino. A different U.S. man also earned a medal at all three editions of the world championships, which began in 2017.

Roberts ascended to the top of her high-flying sport after fracturing her T4 vertebra in a crash off a six-foot ramp when she was 10 years old. She was in a back brace for a month and unsure whether her passion for BMX would return.

“It was surprising to me that I wanted to get back on the bike,” she said, according to USA Cycling. “There was a lot of talking myself into it, but I was going crazy not being on my bike. Once back on the bike I knew this was where I wanted to be.”

Roberts could become the youngest U.S. Olympic cycling medalist since 1912 and the first teenage woman to win an Olympic cycling title from any country.

The first Olympic BMX events debuted at the 2008 Beijing Games. Those were the more traditional men’s and women’s races over undulating courses.

In BMX freestyle, athletes take 60-second runs on park courses with ramps and obstacles to show style and tricks. They are judged on categories including difficulty, originality, execution and overall flow.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Annemiek van Vleuten wins world road race title with solo 65-mile attack

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Annemiek van Vleuten, four days after being denied a third straight world time trial title, was determined to win her first road race crown. The Dutchwoman broke away from the peloton with 65 miles left in Saturday’s 92-mile race and rode solo to the finish in Yorkshire, Great Britain.

Van Vleuten held off countrywoman and defending champion Anna van der Breggen by 2 minutes, 15 seconds after more than four hours in the saddle. Australian Amanda Spratt took bronze. Full results are here.

American phenom Chloe Dygert Owen, who on Tuesday beat the dominant Dutch team for the time trial title, attempted to chase down van Vleuten with about 30 miles left.

But she could not get closer than 1:49 at any time check before being caught by the other chasers and ending up fourth.

Instead, van Vleuten earned her biggest career road race win, three years after a horrific crash in the event at the Rio Olympics. She suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped into a ditch. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course in Brazil.

Worlds conclude with the men’s road race on Sunday.

MORE: World Road Cycling Championships TV Schedule

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Rohan Dennis repeats as world time trial champion ahead of teen

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Australian Rohan Dennis, in his first race since quitting the Tour de France the day before that Grand Tour’s time trial, repeated as world champion in the time trial on Wednesday.

“Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk since Tour de France about what I’m doing,” Dennis said. “It’s just really special to back up this year. … To show that I haven’t hung the bike up.”

Dennis, 29, dominated by winning in 1 hour, 5 minutes, 10 seconds, beating 19-year-old Belgian Remco Evenepoel by 1:08 in a 33-mile time trial in Yorkshire, Great Britain.

Lawson Craddock was the top American in sixth. Full results are here.

“It’s been a lot tougher than what it looked out there,” Dennis said. “It was absolutely perfect today.”

Dennis was a bit of a wild card coming into Wednesday given the last two months.

He was last seen in competition on July 18, abandoning the Tour without explanation with about 50 miles left on the 12th stage, one day before he would be among the favorites to win the time trial. Dennis had not raced since.

He won individual time trials at all three Grand Tours and held the hour record for two months in 2015.

All this after a decorated track cycling career, including a 2012 Olympic team pursuit silver medal and a pair of world titles in that discipline. Dennis’ best Grand Tour finish was 16th in the 2018 Giro d’Italia.

Evenepoel, the 2018 World junior champion in the road race and time trial, became the youngest-ever male podium finisher in a senior worlds event, according to Gracenote.

MORE: World Road Cycling Championships TV Schedule

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