Froome worried about pure climbers

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SAINT-LO, France — Featuring two individual time trials and a lot of mountains, the Tour de France route suits titleholder Chris Froome very well. The British allrounder, however, believes pure climbing specialists will excel in the heat of the French summer.

“It’s a route that is very much a climbers’ route,” Froome told The Associated Press in a TV interview ahead of the Tour starting at Mont Saint-Michel on Saturday. “Even though we have two time trials, they are very hilly time trials.”

Those two stages take place in the second half of the 3,519-kilometer three-week race. The first one, on Stage 13, is on 37.5 kilometers of rolling terrain in the Ardeche region, and comes a day after the daunting ascent of Mont Ventoux, where Froome made his mark in 2013 for his first Tour triumph.

The second time trial, in the Alps, will be the Tour’s first mountain time trial since the 2004 ascent of l’Alpe d’Huez.

“The guys who climb well should go right in them,” Froome said.

Careful of maintaining a sense of suspense until the very end of the race, Tour organizers have chiseled a well-balanced route with many opportunities for Froome’s main rivals, Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador, and Fabio Aru, as well as the French duo of Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet.

The race features 28 mountain passes and four very hard stages in four days in the final week, where the trio of main contenders is expected to be among the leaders and on the attack.

In 2013 and 2015, Froome lost time to Quintana in the closing mountain stages. But he has slightly changed his schedule this year in order to maintain his peak longer, especially as he will be competing in the road race at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

If that different approach bears fruit, Froome should be in a better shape come the third week of the Tour.

“He’s coming up to top form a bit later, and he’ll try to hold onto that through to the Olympics and the second part of the season,” Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford said. “He is in great shape.”

In his quest to become just the eighth rider to win three Tours, Froome will be helped by the strongest team of the field. Team Sky features Sergio Henao, Mikel Landa, Woet Poels, and Geraint Thomas, who will be key assets during the nine mountain stages.

“We’ve got a fantastic team. I’ve got a lot of confidence in my teammates,” Froome said at his team hotel in Normandy. “I feel privileged to be in a position to be leading a lineup of guys like that. Guys who can be leaders in their own right have come here to support me. It’s something that gives me a lot of confidence coming into the Tour de France.”

Kwiatkowski wins Tirreno-Adriatico, Dennis takes final stage

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SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy (AP) Michal Kwiatkowski won the Tirreno-Adriatico cycling race Tuesday after an impressive time trial on the final stage, which was won by Rohan Dennis.

Kwiatkowski started the individual time trial with an advantage of three seconds over Damiano Caruso and he was quicker than the Italian rider at every time check.

The Polish cyclist eventually finished 24 seconds ahead of Caruso in the overall standings, with Geraint Thomas third, 32 seconds behind his Team Sky teammate.

“I don’t actually know the final result, just that I won, and that’s all that matters,” Kwiatkowski said. “It was very nervous. When I was warming up it started raining so I was scared something might go wrong.

“I had to go with lower tire pressure. It was tricky … I had to be careful but I had good feelings today and that’s why I could finish so well.”

Thomas lost 36 seconds to the leaders following a mechanical failure during the fourth stage of the seven-stage race.

Dennis was quickest on the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto. The Australian, who also won the closing time trial last year, was four seconds faster than Jos van Emden and eight ahead of Jonathan Castroviejo.

“To be honest I was nervous about it,” Dennis said. “I was looking at the best times on the course and was thinking, `What do I need to aim for?”‘

Dygert breaks pursuit record 2x at track cycling worlds

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APELDOORN, Netherlands (AP) Chloe Dygert broke the women’s individual pursuit world record twice in winning at the world track cycling championships on Saturday.

Dygert, who anchored the Americans to another team pursuit gold medal on Thursday, lowered the individual record time by two seconds in qualifying. Then in the final against Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands, Dygert took the record down again by 0.012 seconds to retain her crown.

Dygert took the record time from compatriot Sarah Hammer, the five-time world pursuit champion who retired in September.

“Not having Sarah here was strange, she’s been to every world championship with me,” Dygert said. “But I had a (video) call with her before my final ride and that gave me a little bit of extra energy.”

In other finals, Matthew Glaetzer of Australia won the men’s sprint, Miriam Welte of Germany won the women’s 500-meter time trial four years after she first won it, Szyman Sajnok of Poland edged the men’s omnium, and British duo Katie Archibald and Emily Nelson dominated the women’s Madison.

Glaetzer defeated defending champion Denis Dmitriev of Russia en route to the sprint final, where he overpowered rising British talent Jack Carlin 2-0.

Carlin merely hoped to make the quarterfinals in his first world individual sprint race, and had to compose himself on the podium.

“I was very close to throwing up,” he said. “Throwing up during the Australian national anthem probably wouldn’t have gone down very well ahead of the Commonwealth Games (next month).”

Welte followed up her team sprint win on Wednesday with the time trial victory, beating Daria Shmeleva of Russia to reverse the result from last year.

The men’s omnium went to the final lap, with Sajnok and Jan Willem van Schip of the Netherlands tied on points. Sajnok was first across the line. Simone Consonni of Italy was third.

Archibald and Nelson won eight of the 12 sprints in the Madison, all eight in a row. Archibald didn’t defend her omnium title on Friday because she didn’t feel well. Nelson partnered with her only in the morning after Elinor Barker was ruled out after crashing in the omnium. For Nelson, it was her first world title. She and Barker were second last year.