Team Sky’s dominance at Tour de France set to continue

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PARIS – The Tour de France has a new champion, but the narrative remains the same at cycling’s biggest race: Team Sky’s domination has no limits.

By placing Geraint Thomas on top of the podium on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday, the British outfit ended three weeks of racing which sadly lacked suspense with a sixth win in the past seven Tours.

Once again, Team Sky riders have been untouchable on the roads of France, controlling the race with ease as Thomas became the third Briton to win the Tour after Bradley Wiggins and four-time champion Chris Froome.

Since Wiggins won in 2012 wearing a Team Sky jersey, the richest team in the peloton has claimed every edition of the race except one, in 2014 when Froome crashed out and Vincenzo Nibali of Italy emerged victorious.

Even the expulsion of Gianni Moscon for punching a rival during Stage 15 had no effect on Sky’s well-oiled machine, as the team managed by Dave Brailsford completed a fourth consecutive Grand Tour win.

“We were well behind our goals the year we started, we did better the next year then we won the Tour with Bradley,” said Brailsford, who has supervised the team since it was created in 2010. “Chris Froome learned a lot by riding alongside Bradley, he gained a lot of experience, then Geraint learned from Chris. It is passed on from a generation to the next. We are always thinking about the future.”

Although Thomas has yet to extend his contract with Sky, both he and Froome are expected to be part of the team next season. At 32, Thomas is in the best form of his life while the 33-year-old Froome will try again to equal five-time Tour winners Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

More talent is already emerging behind them in Egan Bernal, the 21-year-old Colombian rider who competed at his first Tour this summer. Bernal did amazing work for Thomas and Froome in the mountains, assisting both in the final Pyrenees stage. Despite his relentless efforts as a domestique, Bernal still managed a 15th-place finish overall.

In addition to Bernal, Brailsford has also recruited two of the brightest prospects in cycling, 21-year-old Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart, who is 23-years-old.

“My job is to look three or four years ahead,” Brailsford said. “Our riders in their 30’s won’t be there forever. Within the next two or three seasons, I will have the opportunity to add other youngsters in the group. This year, Egan has been looking very carefully at was Chris does, he kept asking questions, looked at everything we do to win the Tour. It was the best possible experience for the future.”

Sky’s rivals have often complained of a lack of means in attempting to dethrone the British giant at the Tour. Sky has an estimated budget of $40 million, about double that of Tom Dumoulin’s Sunweb team.

“Of course, they have more money to spend, it makes life easier sometimes,” said Dumoulin, the runner-up to Thomas. “Of course, having a big budget matters. But it would be too easy to say that Geraint Thomas had a big advantage just with this team. He was the strongest rider.”

Brailsford is adamant it’s not just the money, but also Sky’s expertise in developing talents that help him lure the best riders.

“Bernal has a very, very modest income,” he said. “When compared to the average World Tour income, it’s not much, most of the riders are making more money.”

David Lappartient, president of cycling’s governing body, has suggested that a salary cap limiting team spending could be introduced to ensure more suspense in the future, while Tour director Christian Prudhomme would like to see a ban on power meters monitoring cyclists’ watts to make the race less predictable.

“Because of these power meters, riders know for how many kilometers and minutes they can sustain their effort,” Prudhomme said. “Because of that, bluff strategies have disappeared from the race, and they should return.”

Demare wins crash-affected Stage 10; Conti keeps Giro lead

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MODENA, Italy (AP) Arnaud Demare of France sprinted to victory after a crash affected the end of the 10th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday, while Italian cyclist Valerio Conti kept the overall lead.

Demare, who rides for Groupama-FDJ, edged out Elia Viviani and Rudiger Selig in a bunch sprint at the end of the entirely flat 145-kilometer (90-mile) route from Ravenna to Modena.

“We came to the Giro for this. I really wanted a stage win and I got it,” Demare said. “I avoided the crash because we, as a team, were very well positioned. I’m super happy.”

A crash inside the final kilometer ended Pascal Ackermann’s chances of claiming a third stage win at this year’s Giro. The German cyclist finished the stage with his shorts and jersey in tatters.

Ackermann appeared to touch wheels with the rider in front of him, causing him to go down and taking out a number of other cyclists.

The most seriously injured was Matteo Moschetti, who briefly lost consciousness. His Trek-Segafredo teammates and other cyclists frantically waved over medics and Moschetti attempted to stand but swiftly sat down again.

The 22-year-old was taken to a hospital.

As the crash happened inside the final three kilometers there were no time gaps given. Conti remained 1 minute, 50 seconds ahead of Primoz Roglic and 2:21 ahead of Nans Peters of France.

“It wasn’t a hard day but, as everyone saw, danger is always around the corner,” Conti said. “Luckily I managed to avoid all the crashes. It went well, another day in the pink jersey is a source of pride.”

Wednesday’s 11th stage is also entirely flat along the 221-kilometer route from Carpi to Novi Ligure.

The Giro finishes in Verona on June 2.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Roglic wins Stage 9; Conti keeps pink jersey in Giro

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SAN MARINO (AP) Primoz Roglic of Slovenia won the ninth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday as Italian cyclist Valerio Conti extended his overall lead after the individual time trial.

Roglic, who also won the opening individual time trial, was quickest on the rain-soaked 35-kilometer (22-mile) route from Riccione that had an uphill finish in San Marino – the only time this year that the Giro crosses into another country.

The 29-year-old Roglic was 11 seconds faster than Belgium cyclist Victor Campenaerts and one minute ahead of Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands.

Roglic had been more than five minutes behind Conti going into the time trial but moved into second overall, 1:50 behind the UAE Team Emirates cyclist, who had replaced Roglic in the overall lead after finishing second in Thursday’s sixth stage.

Moreover, Roglic gained time on his rivals. British cyclist Simon Yates – one of the pre-race favorites – finished more than three minutes behind Roglic.

“It’s a perfect performance in my mind. I did a good job,” Roglic said. “I took it easy at the beginning and I gave it all at the end.

“It’s nice to take some time over the other GC favorites but the Giro is far from over.”

Nans Peters of France moved third overall, 2:21 behind Conti.

“It was very rainy for me but I stayed calm. My goal was to keep the Maglia Rosa so I’m very happy with the result,” Conti said.

Vincenzo Nibali fared the best out of the rest of the pre-race favorites, finishing fourth on a day which saw only 12 riders finish within two minutes of the winner. The Italian is 3:34 behind Conti.

Monday is the race’s first rest day before Tuesday’s 10th stage, an entirely flat 145-kilometer route from Ravenna to Modena.

The Giro finishes in Verona on June 2.