Chris Froome to resume racing at UAE Tour next month

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BRUSSELS — Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome will return to competition at the UAE Tour next month, less than a year after suffering multiple career-threatening injuries.

The British rider has not raced since he broke his right femur, elbow, hip and several ribs in a training crash as he geared up for last year’s Tour de France.

Organizers of the seven-stage race in the Middle East said Wednesday that Froome will be on the starting line on Feb. 23 in the United Arab Emirates.

“I’m really excited about getting back to racing at the UAE Tour,” Froome said in a statement released by organizers. “I’ve come off a good block of training in Gran Canaria and look forward to taking the next step in my recovery and getting back to full strength.”

The Team Ineos rider has yet to unveil his race schedule but his main ambition is to add another Tour title to his collection to join an elite club of four riders with five victories, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

Caleb Ewan wins Stage 2 of Tour Down Under, takes lead

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Caleb Ewan of Australia won stage two and claimed the overall lead in the Tour Down Under cycle race Wednesday as the first event of the World Tour season wound through landscapes scorched by recent wildfires.

Ewan showed his immense power in the uphill sprint to the finish to race away from defending champion Daryl Impey of South Africa at the end of the 135.8 kilometer (84 mile) stage from Woodside to Stirling.

He claimed his eighth stage win of his career on his home tour in 3 hours, 27 minutes, 31 seconds.

Australia’s Nathan Haas was third and Jasper Philipsen of Belgium fourth.

First stage winner Sam Bennett of Ireland was 13th, credited with the same time as Ewan. But Ewan claimed a 10 second time bonus for the stage win to take over from Bennett in the tour leader’s ocher jersey.

Ewan and Bennett are credited with the same time on general classification but Ewan, who finished seventh on the first stage, holds the race lead on count back.

Impey moved into a challenging position, only a second behind the race leader while Philpsen is fourth, four seconds behind Ewan.

“I’m super happy with that,” Ewan said. “Yesterday things didn’t go to plan and I think we spoke for about an hour in the room about what we can do better.

“The boys did absolutely perfect today, they did everything I asked for and I headed to the line in perfect position.”

A crash within two kilometers of the line Wednesday fractured the peloton and left only about 25 riders in contention but Ewan stayed out of trouble and was left perfectly placed to unleash his sprint.

“You can’t do it on your own and I said to (the team) yesterday if I’m going to win today’s stage it’s a tough one and I’m going to need all the help I can get,” Ewan said.

Bennett also avoided the late pileup and was in a strong position heading towards the finish but he didn’t have Ewan’s late acceleration.

“In top form I know I can do a finish like this but in January it’s just good to be here,” Bennett said. “To have these legs already in the season is pretty good.

“At 200 meters to go I thought this could be a good day but I got off the saddle and there’s nothing there.”

The race Wednesday passed through bush land and vineyards showing the scars of recent wildfires. At times the riders rode through a brown wasteland of burned trees.

The course was planned before the fires and locals insisted it should go ahead as part of the recovery from the recent crisis.

Thursday’s third stage will favor climbers, featuring a stiff climb to the finish atop a hill at Paracombe.

Osaka joins Kvitova, Barty in 3rd round of Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Defending champion Naomi Osaka threw her racket, tossed a ball and kicked the racket again for good measure, before sitting for a while with a towel over her head. She sensed the crowd was looking for drama, and she gave them a little bit.

She pulled it together quickly in a swirling breeze on Margaret Court Arena, though, and beat Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the third round of the Australian Open.

On the adjoining show court at about the same time, 2019 runner-up Petra Kvitova held her composure when she faced three set points before winning 13 of the next 15 points to beat  7-5, 7-5.

Both of last year’s finalists had secured spots in the third round before some of the women hadn’t completed their first-round matches in the singles draw. A backlog created by heavy rain on Day 1, caused a further spillover on Day 2.

On Day 3, the lineup on the show courts was full of major winners. French Open champion and No. 1-seeded Ash Barty beat Polona Hercog 6-1, 6-4 in the second match on Rod Laver Arena. Seven-time champion Novak Djokovic was playing the next match on Melbourne Park’s center court.

Osaka was unimpressed with her performance.

“I hope you guys like the tennis that’s coming after my match,” third-seeded Osaka told the crowd in an on-court interview, “because it wasn’t that pretty.”

She had her service broken three times, including the one in the second set that caused a minor tantrum.

“I got really fired up when she was up … and people started clapping more,” Osaka said. Asked what the crowd was clapping for, she said: “For the drama. I was complaining here, I was almost throwing my racket over there.”

Osaka won back-to-back majors at the U.S. Open in 2018 and Australia last year. She was unable to successfully defend her U.S. title, and is using that as a learning experience here to counteract any nerves.

“I got that all out during the U..S Open. Coming here, I think about it as a new tournament,” she said. “The only thing that has changed is maybe people want to beat me more.”

One of those is two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, who had a comeback run at Melbourne Park last year before losing the final.

She said she had a few nerves in the second round, and had some difficulty with the breeze, but was otherwise OK.

“So far it’s good. Being in the third round of a Grand Slam (means) the tournament’s not ending,” she said.

That’s also a theme for 2018 champion Caroline Wozniacki, who will retire after the tournament. She wiped away tears from her eyes after converting a ‘7-5, 7-5 victory on her sixth match point against Dayana Yastremska.

Because of suspended matches from rain on Monday, eight first-round women’s singles matches were not completed Tuesday. There were several still in progress when Osaka and Kvitova went through.

Also advancing to the third round were No. 14-seeded Sofia Kenin, No. 18 Alison Riske, No. 25 Ekaterina Alexandrova and Julia Goerges, who beat 13th-seeded Petra Martic 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

In first-round matches, 31-year-old Carla Suarez Navarro, a three-time quarterfinalist in Australia, upset 11th-seeded Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), and Taylor Townsend beat fellow American Jessica Pegula 6-4, 7-6 (5) to move into a second-rounder against No. 30 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

In the last of the first-round matches to finish, Elise Martin beat Danka Kovinic 6-2, 6-0.

Sixth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas didn’t even have to go on court to get through the second round, getting a walkover when Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew from their scheduled match because of a muscle strain.

In the only completed men’s match, Sam Querrey beat Ricardas Berankis 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.