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Cavendish back racing with Tour de France still possible

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) Mark Cavendish returned to cycling for the first time since March on Thursday at the Tour of Slovenia, and the sprint star remains hopeful he can start the Tour de France next month.

Cavendish had not raced since Milano-Sanremo in March. He came down with mononucleosis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus in April, forcing him to the sideline during his typical Tour prep.

The 32-year-old British cyclist has 30 stage wins in France, four shy of Eddy Merckx’s record.

This year’s Tour begins with a short time trial July 1 in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Cavendish said he’s “fit as I can be after four weeks of training,” but his health will be closely monitored during the four-day Tour of Slovenia. Sam Bennett won Thursday’s opening stage in a sprint.

Royal Ascot to make to make U.S. Television debut

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STAMFORD, Conn. – NBCSN presents daily live coverage of the Royal Meeting in Ascot, Berkshire, England – one of the most prestigious horse racing meets in the world – beginning Tuesday, June 20, at 8:30 a.m. ET. NBCSN’s live coverage of the full five-day Royal meeting, Tuesday through Saturday, June 24, will air daily from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. ET — for a total of 22.5 coverage hours. This year’s coverage marks the U.S. television debut of the event.

Royal Ascot is one of the world’s most valuable horse racing events, attracting many of the world’s finest racehorses. The event features 30 races, including eight at the world championship “Group One” level. Five US‑based trainers are expected to field a total of 14 runners, headlined by Todd Pletcher, whose horses won the Kentucky Derby (Always Dreaming) and Belmont Stakes (Tapwrit) this year. Pletcher’s American Patriot runs in Tuesday’s Queen Anne Stakes.

The Royal Meeting is the center of the British social season and a pivotal week in the calendar of the Royal Family, who arrive every day by the world famous “Royal Procession” – with the first carriage carrying The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Tapwrit wins 149th Belmont Stakes

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Tapwrit won the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

Race favorite Irish War Cry broke away early and led for the majority of the race, but Tapwrit, who came in with 5-1 odds, used a late push to slide into first and grab the win.

The victory gives trainer Todd Pletcher two-thirds of the 2017 Triple Crown with Always Dreaming’s Kentucky Derby victory. It also marks the third time Pletcher has won the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Following the win, Pletcher explained that the race played out exactly the way his team had hoped it would.

“Tapwrit was getting a beautiful trip,” Pletcher said. “It was everything that we had talked about in the paddock before the race. It was just hoping that he had enough when it came crunch time.”

Pletcher is also the trainer of Patch, the one-eyed horse who came away with a third-place finish.

Meanwhile, jockey Jose Ortiz celebrated his first Triple Crown victory, calling the win “unbelievable.”

Both Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing pulled out of the Belmont Stakes, opening up the field and paving the way for three different Triple Crown race winners in 2017.