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

Little boy goes wild watching dad in Tour de France

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Bauke Mollema wasn’t the only one putting on a show at the Tour de France.

Mollema received plenty of support back home as his son went absolutely crazy watching his “papa” push to victory in Stage 15. As it is with siblings, Mollema’s oldest son, Julian, was forced to share the spot light as Thomas got emotional watching his dad finally earn a coveted stage win.

Amidst the blood, sweat and tears that have made up the 2017 Tour de France, Mollema’s adorable 2-year-old son, Thomas gave the internet something to smile about.

The Tour de France has “always been the most important race for [Mollema]” and his dreams came true when he had an impressive break away to solidify the first stage win of his career.

Clearly, Mollema was not the only one excited for his first victory.

 

Cavendish involved in nasty crash after elbow from Sagan

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VITTEL, France (AP) A nasty crash involving Mark Cavendish marred Tuesday’s fourth stage of the Tour de France, which was won by France’s Arnaud Demare in a chaotic sprint finish.

Replays appeared to show world champion Peter Sagan elbowing Cavendish, who was squeezed against the barriers to his right, out of the way. Cavendish slammed into the barriers and two other riders plowed over the British sprint specialist, a winner of 30 Tour stages.

Sagan, who crossed the line second, was later given a 30-second penalty that relegated him to 115th place on the stage. As a result, he dropped from second place in the overall standings to 15th.

“I get on with Peter well, but I don’t get … if he came across is one thing, but the elbow. I’m not a fan of him putting his elbow in me like that,” Cavendish said.

“A crash is a crash, I’d just like to know about the elbow, really,” Cavendish added. “I’d just like to speak to him about it.”

After the crash, Sagan went over to see how Cavendish was and patted him on the back, while the British rider showed him his wounds.

The Slovak said later he had apologized to Cavendish.

“It’s not nice to crash like that,” Sagan said.

“It’s the sprint. I just didn’t know that Mark is behind me, he’s coming from the right side,” Sagan added. “Mark was coming pretty fast from the back and after I just didn’t have time to react, to go left, and he just came (into) me and after into the fence.”

A medical team quickly ran out to treat Cavendish, jogging into the oncoming stream of riders to reach him.

When Cavendish was finally helped to his feet, his jersey was badly torn and blood was streaking down his side. Cavendish rode in with a teammate after treatment, gingerly holding his right arm close to his body, with his right hand in a bandage.

It’s already been a difficult year for Cavendish, who came down with mononucleosis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus in April.

Demare’s sprint victory ended a long wait for the home fans, with the previous French victory in a bunch sprint at the Tour being won by Jimmy Casper in Stage 1 in Strasbourg in 2006.

“It’s extraordinary, it’s marvelous,” said Demare, the French champion who finished second to Marcel Kittel in the mass sprint that concluded Stage 2.

There was another crash earlier that delayed Tour leader Geraint Thomas, but the Welshman retained the yellow jersey since it happened in the neutral zone near the stage finish.

Thomas leads Sky teammate and three-time champion Chris Froome by 12 seconds, with third-place Michael Matthews of Australia also 12 seconds back. Sagan is now 43 seconds adrift.

Thomas scraped his knee but said it was OK.

“I hit the deck but I’m fine,” Thomas said.

Demare clocked nearly five hours over the largely flat 207.5-kilometer (129-mile) route, which started and finished in two spa towns, Mondorf-les-Bains in Luxembourg and Vittel in France.

“We’ve been working with Arnaud for a long time on sprints,” said Marc Madiot, manager of Demare’s FDJ team. “Winning in the Tour is the best.”

After Sagan’s penalty, Alexander Kristoff moved up to second place in the stage, with Andre Greipel in third.

After starting in Mondorf, the hometown of 2010 Tour winner Andy Schleck, one of the first towns along the route was Schengen, where an agreement was signed in 1985 that enabled passport-free travel in mainland Europe.

Then it was a long, fairly straight slog through fields of grain, passing near the medieval city of Nancy into Vittel, home of the official mineral water supplier for the Tour.

It was the race’s third consecutive stage of more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) and when Guillaume van Keirsbulck, a Belgian with the Wanty team, attacked from the starting gun there was no reaction from the pack.

Van Keirsbulck quickly built a lead of more than seven minutes before being caught with less than 17 kilometers to go.

“A really hard day,” Van Keirsbulck said. “It’s not easy to stay in the front.”

Stage 5 on Wednesday concludes with the first serious climb of the Tour. The 160.5-kilometer (100-mile) leg begins in Vittel and winds its way to La Planche Des Belles Filles with a short but steep finishing ascent that features a leg-breaking 20-percent gradient in the final meters. All of the overall favorites should swing into action.