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Chris Froome happy as Tour de France heads for the mountains

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ANNECY, France – Chris Froome believes the mountains will reveal the true Tour de France contenders as he looks forward to the first of three grueling stages in the Alps.

“I’m feeling good and optimistic about the upcoming stages,” the four-time champion said on Monday, the Tour’s first rest day.

Froome, who is eighth overall after nine stages, is 1 minute, 42 seconds behind yellow-jersey holder Greg Van Avermaet before the first Alpine stage on Tuesday.

Van Avermaet is not expected to be a threat in the mountains, and Froome suggested the Belgian “will find it difficult to hang on tomorrow. It’s a proper climbers stage.”

After an opening week of relatively flat routes, the first significant ascents begin with four categorized climbs as well as the punishing Montee du plateau des Gileres, which features a six-kilometer climb at an incline of 11.2 percent.

“It’s a tough stage. It will definitely start shaping the GC,” Froome said of the general classification.

Sky teammate Geraint Thomas is second overall, 0:43 behind Van Avermaet, meaning the team has two viable options to claim the yellow jersey over the second week of the three-week Tour.

“It’s great for us to have those options to play when it comes down to it, especially looking at some of our rivals who have got two or three options in their team,” Froome said.

“The team around us is such a capable group of guys, and we’re really going to be coming into our element now in the mountains.”

Massachusetts man wins Mount Washington bike race

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PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. — A 30-year-old Massachusetts man won Saturday’s bicycle race up Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States.

Barry Miller, of Beverly, Massachusetts, was the top finisher in the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb up the 7.6-mile ascent to the summit of the 6,288-foot peak in 53 minutes and 34 seconds.

Miller was followed by Drake Deuel, 20, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Erik Levinsohn, 28 of New Haven, Connecticut.

In the women’s race, 40-year-old Aimee Vassee, of Longmont, Colorado, finished the course in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 5 seconds. She was followed Stefanie Sydlik, of Pittsburg, and Kristen Roberts of Reading Massachusetts.

The start of Saturday’s race was delayed two hours due to rain, fog and heavy clouds.

Last year’s top male finisher wasn’t in the race this year, nor were any of last year’s other top seven finishers.

Vasse defended her title as reigning champion in the climb. She won the race from 2004 to 2006. After a long absence, she returned last year and won in her fastest time yet.

Riders deal with a steep grade averaging 12 percent and rising to 22 percent at the finish, as well as Mount Washington’s unpredictable weather.

The race raises money for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, New Hampshire, which provides environmental and recreational education for children, schools, and families.

Australian cycling star Simon Gerrans to retire

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SYDNEY — Simon Gerrans, who won two stages of the Tour de France and is the only Australian to have won two of cycling’s one-day classics, has announced he will retire at the end of the 2018 season.

Gerrans is one of only seven Australians to have worn the leader’s yellow jersey in the Tour de France. He also won stages of the Giro d’Italia and the Spanish Vuelta and won the Milan-San Remo and Liege-Bastogne-Liege races which are among cycling’s five one-day classics, which are collectively known as the Monuments.

In an open letter published Tuesday on the website of his BMW Racing Team, Gerrans said he was ready to change careers.

“Although I feel that I am still performing at a good level physically, my passion for the sport is not what it used to be,” he said. “Professional cycling is too hard unless you are able to commit wholeheartedly.”

Gerrans, who turned professional in 2005, rode the Tour de France for the BMC team this year. He finishes with 33 career victories, winning his home tour – the Tour Down Under – four times.

“When I look back over my racing career my fondest memories don’t come from winning Classics or Grand Tour stages but the happiness and joy my victories created for the team and people close to me,” Gerrans said.