Dumoulin dominates time trial at Tour and eyes Olympic gold

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LA CAVERNE DU PONT-D’ARC, France (AP) Tom Dumoulin had this day circled on his calendar for months.

The Dutch cyclist knew that the opening time trial of the Tour de France perfectly suited his strengths.

But when he awoke on Friday to the news of the truck attack in nearby Nice that left at least 84 people dead, many of them children, his plans went out the window.

“I went out of focus this morning, which is normal I guess, when you hear about these terrible things happening just a few hundred kilometers away from you,” Dumoulin said. “But I just went for it and it was a very good time trial. To win with more than a minute on (Chris) Froome and everyone else is something I didn’t expect, and it gives me a lot of confidence.”

Starting well before the race’s overall leaders on a day featuring 70-kph (45-mph) winds, Dumoulin dominated the 37.5-kilometer (23-mile) race against the clock from Bourg-Saint-Andeol to La Caverne du Pont-D’arc, the decorated cave that contains human drawings from about 30,000 years ago.

Dumoulin won the 13th stage with a massive advantage of 63 seconds on Froome, with Portugal time trial champion Nelson Oliveira placing third, 1:31 back.

It was Dumoulin’s second stage victory of this Tour after he also claimed Stage 9 with a solo breakaway through a hailstorm on a mountain-top finish in Andorra.

Few riders besides the top overall contenders can win both a big mountain stage and a time trial in the same Grand Tour. In addition to two stages in last year’s Spanish Vuelta, Dumoulin also won the opening time trial in this year’s Giro d’Italia, and wore the pink jersey for six stages before withdrawing midway through the race with saddle sores.

So when might the Team Giant-Alpecin rider attempt to win a Grand Tour?

“I’ve been asked that a lot of times,” Dumoulin said. “But also winning by a minute in a time trial is not possible when you go full gas every day. So there’s a bit of perspective. I will definitely be focusing on the GC (general classification) in a Grand Tour in the future but I cannot say when that will be.”

Dumoulin is 40th overall, nearly an hour behind race leader Froome.

More importantly, he considers himself the favorite for the time trial at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“I am. I cannot deny that after today,” Dumoulin said. “I have to maintain my condition to maintain that. I will not go full out every day. I’ll keep picking my days and hopefully it will pay off in Rio.”

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

2019 Tour will honor 1st victory of 5-time champion Merckx

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BRUSSELS (AP) The start of the 2019 Tour de France will be all about honoring Eddy Merckx in his hometown of Brussels.

Merckx, known as “The Cannibal” for his ferocious taste for victory, won the first of his five Tours in 1969. Half a century later, the Belgian great still sees it as one of the major accomplishments for a cyclist generally considered to be the greatest ever.

“I wore the yellow jersey 96 times. It is the best memory of my career. It still gives me goosebumps,” Merckx said during Tuesday’s presentation of the Grand Depart – the opening weekend of the three-week Tour.

Merckx also won a record 34 Tour stages and is among four riders who won the Tour a record five times. French riders Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain are the others.

Tour organizers said it will be the second time the race will set off from the Belgian capital, which hosted the race’s Grand Depart in 1958.

The 2019 race will also mark 100 years since the race leader’s yellow jersey was created.

When it comes to the first two stages on July 6-7, the iconic Wall of Geraardsbergen climb should take center stage.

The 192-kilometer (119-mile) first stage of the Tour will have the Wall, for decades the toughest climb in the Ronde of Flanders classic. The Wall will come early but the stage, which makes a big loop south of Brussels, is still set up for a sprint finish close to the royal palace.

It will also have its stretch of famed Flemish cobblestones and will pass through the hometown of soccer player Eden Hazard.

The second stage will be a 28-kilometer team time trial through the Belgian capital along its wide-open boulevards. The riders will also pass by St. Pieters-Woluwe in suburban Brussels, where Merckx lived as a child and where he got to pull on his first yellow jersey.

From Brussels, it is an easy trek south into nearby France for the rest of the race.

Peter Sagan wins prelude to Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Three-time world road racing champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia made an outstanding start to the 2018 cycling season Sunday when he won the People’s Choice Classic, a prelude to the first World Tour event of the season, the Tour Down Under.

Sagan beat star sprinters Andre Greipel of Germany and Caleb Ewan of Australia in a bunch sprint to win the 50.6 kilometer (31.4 mile) race over 22 laps of a street course in central Adelaide.

The win means Sagan will wear the tour leader’s ocher jersey in the first stage of the six stage Tour Down Under on Tuesday. Sunday’s race does not count toward general classification.

Ewan won the race in each of the past two years and Greipel is the only three-time winner. The 132-strong field that lined up for the race Sunday included seven former winners.