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Tour de France celebrates century of yellow jerseys

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PARIS — Next year’s Tour de France will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the showcase race’s iconic yellow jersey.

With France emerging from the carnage of World War I, the Tour offered its beacon of hope to the war-ravaged nation. In 1919, the race leader’s yellow jersey – which has become cycling’s most iconic symbol – was introduced.

“It came straight out of the trenches, born from the rubble of a wounded France,” Tour race director Christian Prudhomme said Thursday, unveiling the route for the July 6-28 race. “A light was needed, a color which can be seen better than any other, in the dust, in the night. A beacon was needed to guide France toward resurgence.”

Joining Prudhomme on stage were five-time Tour winners Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

“It’s the most important jersey you can wear,” the 73-year-old Merckx said.

Only four riders, including Jacques Anquetil, have won five Tours. Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven titles for doping.

“Over the century, the yellow jersey has left its mark. It’s experienced everything, the biggest exploits, the biggest champions,” Prudhomme said. “It also has also experienced the lies. (A total of) 266 champions have had the honor of wearing it.”

British rider Chris Froome will try to win his fifth title next year, but will have to depose his Team Sky teammate Geraint Thomas over the 3,460-kilometer (2,145-mile) race. It features seven flat stages for sprinters, five hilly ones for all-arounders, seven mountain stages – five of with summit finishes – one team time trial and one individual time trial.

The big climbs start in the Pyrenees before hitting the Alps.

The Tour has less of the Hors Categorie (Beyond Classification) climbs than before. Those HC climbs are the most grueling. Instead, the race has more of the Category Two climbs – which are noticeably less difficult and favor attacking strategies.

“Our ambition is not to make it more difficult but to make it more varied,” Prudhomme said. “(More) Incentive to attack.”

Sky has won six of the past seven races, often controlling them in the mountains by easily repelling attacks. This has given the team an aura of invincibility and the race a predictable tone.

With closer racing needed, the two time trials combine for a relatively low 54 kilometers (34 miles), meaning specialists such as Froome have less chance to gain significant time advantages.

The race begins with a flat stage for sprinters around the city of Brussels and stays there the next day for the 27-kilometer (17-mile) team time trial.

After leaving Belgium, the Tour snakes through the Champagne and Lorraine regions. Stage 4 for sprinters starts in Reims – the Champagne-producing city where 25 French kings were crowned in its cathedral.

With the race leaving the Alsace region, Stage 7 is the longest at 230 kilometers (143 miles) and made for sprinters. The next day’s stage is a hilly one, with several short but sharp climbs from Macon to Saint-Etienne.

The first rest day is July 16 in Albi in southern France, followed by a sprint stage before the Tour enters the high Pyrenees. Stage 14 on July 20 features finishes with a climb up the Tourmalet pass, one of the most famed in Tour history.

Riders tackle three days of Alpine climbing on stages 18-20, featuring an ascent up the famed Galibier and imposing Iseran – standing 2,770 meters (9,100 feet) – and culminating with a relentless 33.4-kilometer (20.7-mile) trek up to the ski resort of Val Thorens.

After the weary peloton is flown toward Paris, the race ends the next day with its processional showcase stage on the Champs-Elysees.

Eli Viviania wins first stage of Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Italy’s Elia Viviani slipped through a tiny gap near the finish line to win the first stage of the Tour Down Under on Tuesday as riders faced the dual challenge of extreme heat and strong winds.

Viviani was tucked back in the peloton, behind triple world champion Peter Sagan, as riders raced towards the finish of the 129-kilometer stage at Port Adelaide.

First Danny van Poppel of the Netherlands, then Germany’s Maximilian Richard Walscheid hit the front in the straight sprint to the finish and Walscheid looked to have made the winning burst.

But Viviani, who fell during the 50-kilometer tour prelude on Sunday, showed fearlessness as he threaded his way along the crowd barriers to dash past Walsheid for the stage victory.

Riders had to contend with temperatures in the high 30s Celsius (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit) as they raced through the Adelaide Hills, then contended with heat and crosswinds on the long ride along a broad and exposed motorway to the finish.

Organizers had intended to finish with a 3.4-km circuit but, after concerns about the heat, winds and possible traffic problems, they opted instead for a straight run into the finish.

“Today the plan was to wait a little bit and put me in the best position,” Viviani said. “Also the lead out guys had to bring some wind in the face from five kilometers to one kilometer out. Sometimes the danger is you don’t have the space to go through, but I found a little space on the left on the barriers.”

Viviani claimed the win for his Deceuninck-Quick Step team ahead of Walscheid while Italy’s Jakub Mareczko was third. Sagan finished in eighth place with the same time as the winner.

Ex-British cycling doc faces hearing over testosterone order

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LONDON — The former doctor of Team Sky and British Cycling will face a medical hearing on allegations he covered up an order of testosterone which was intended to help an athlete.

Richard Freeman’s actions have been at the center of a British parliamentary investigation into doping in sport and he is now accused by the General Medical Council of getting Testogel “to administer to an athlete to improve their athletic performance.”

Details published by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service ahead of an upcoming hearing say Freeman is accused of making “untrue statements, in that he denied making the order and advised that it had been made in error” in 2011. Freeman is said to have asked a company to provide confirmation that the Testogel order was sent in error and returned “knowing that this had not taken place.”

The tribunal will examine allegations Freeman misled the U.K. Anti-Doping Agency in a 2017 interview by insisting the Testogel had not been ordered for an athlete at the Manchester velodrome where both Team Sky and British Cycling were based at the time in 2011.

The tribunal is listed as being sometime between Feb. 6 to March 5.