Chris Froome

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After Giro crash, Thomas back to support Froome in Tour

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PARIS (AP) Chris Froome will have support rider Geraint Thomas alongside him again as he pursues a fourth Tour de France title in five years.

Thomas opened the year aiming for victory in the Giro d’Italia but was forced to abandon that race because of injuries sustained in a crash caused by a police motorbike.

Thomas recently returned in the Route du Sud and gives Team Sky a second overall option if Froome struggles.

Also named to Sky’s squad Thursday were: Sergio Henao, Vasil Kiryienka, Christian Knees, Michal Kwiatkowski, Mikel Landa, Mikel Nieve and Luke Rowe.

Landa was injured in the same Giro crash as Thomas but stayed in the race, winning the 19th stage and posting three more podium finishes to claim the mountains classification.

Henao and Landa should also escort Froome in the mountains.

Froome won the Tour in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

“Aiming for that fourth victory has given me a lot of motivation,” Froome said. “To me, each Tour tells a different story. Every Tour is a different battle in terms of getting that yellow jersey and then trying to hold on to it.”

Froome preceded each of his Tour victories by winning the Criterium du Dauphine but he finished only fourth in the warm-up race this year – with former Sky teammate Richie Porte taking victory. But the Kenyan-born British rider believes he’s still the man to beat.

“We’re ready as a team and I can’t wait for the Tour to start now. Honestly, I just love it. It’s a feeling that you don’t get from any other race,” Froome said.

Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain share the record with five Tour wins each – after Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven victories for doping.

“To win the Tour once is a huge achievement, but to win it a fourth time would be remarkable,” Sky team principal Dave Brailsford said. “We’ve selected a strong and experienced lineup who will support (Froome), and we’ll be looking to use the strength of the team to our advantage.”

The Tour begins July 1 in Duesseldorf and concludes in Paris three weeks later.

Thomas De Gendt wins Stage 1 of Criterium du Dauphine

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SAINT-ETIENNE, France — Belgian rider Thomas De Gendt won the opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine race after a solo breakaway on Sunday.

De Gendt, a stage winner in the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, completed the 170.5-kilometer (106-mile) trek starting and ending in Saint-Etienne in 4 hours, 17 minutes.

He finished 44 seconds clear of Frenchman Axel Domont and 57 seconds ahead of Italian Diego Ulissi.

Defending champion Chris Froome, who is bidding to win the race for the fourth time, placed safely in the main pack, 1:09 behind.

Monday’s second stage – 171 kilometers from Saint-Chamond to Arlanc – is a flat route for sprinters.

Yates edges Porte in mountains to lead Tour of Romandie

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LEYSIN, Switzerland — Simon Yates outlasted Richie Porte to win the Tour de Romandie’s main mountain stage and earn the leader’s yellow jersey on Saturday.

Britain’s Yates easily held off Australian Porte as both clocked the same time for the 163-kilometer (101-mile) trek to Leysin ski station.

Yates, riding for the Orica-Scott team, took a 19-second lead on Porte to start Sunday’s 18-kilometer (11-mile) time trial to Lausanne that ends the six-day race.

Emanual Buchmann of Germany placed third, 20 seconds back, and was third overall, trailing Yates by 38 seconds.

Fabio Felline of Italy fell to fourth overall, 44 seconds back, after holding the lead since Tuesday.

Three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome dropped from the main group five kilometers (three miles) from the finish and lost more than one minute to Yates.