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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.

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.

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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.