Pau, July 19 (AP/UNB) — There is nothing bigger for male riders than victory at the Tour de France. It's the pinnacle of cycling. But there is no such prize for female riders.
Despite calls from cycling's governing body UCI for the creation of a women's Tour, organizers of cycling's marquee race have yet to come up with plans for an equivalent.
All they offer in July is a one day-race, La Course, that was held on the margins of the Tour de France on Friday in Pau and won by Dutch rider Marianne Vos.
Fresh from winning four stages at the 10-day Giro Rosa in Italy, Vos added another trophy to her large collection in the southwestern city of Pau, but victory in France did not taste the same.
"It was an incredible feeling to win four stages at the Giro, at the highest level," said Vos, a three-time world champion. "Here at La Course, it was really nice to show this form."
Tour organizers ASO have been holding the event since 2014 and say it's not possible for them to operate a longer race, for logistical and security reasons.
"We are not capable of organizing another event during the Tour," Tour director Christian Prudhomme told The Associated Press. "About 29,000 police forces are mobilized for three weeks. France has been struck by attacks, there were the yellow vests (protesters). It's impossible to have even just one extra security staff during the Tour."
To Prudhomme's credit, ASO has been showing interest in running women's equivalents of one-day classics Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The company also organizes a women's mini Tour of Yorkshire over two days.
UCI president David Lappartient said this week he has been holding discussions with Tour organizers aiming at boosting women's cycling exposure.
"One day of racing is clearly not enough for women," Lappartient told the BBC. "If we want a women's Tour de France, we can (have it). For women's cycling we can continue to push."
A women's Tour de France was held during the 1980s alongside the men's race. Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo won it three times but the race never fueled real media interest.
Cycling enjoyed great success at the 2012 London Olympics. Vos was among a group of riders, including former time trial world champion Emma Pooley, which campaigned for the creation of a proper women's Tour. Their petition was called Le Tour Entier — An Entire Tour — and aimed at having women on the starting line of the 2014 Tour. Vos acknowledged Tour organizers' efforts in setting up La Course that year.
"For us it's one moment in the year, like the world championships, when the whole world is watching," Vos said. "Of course it's a big plus for women's cycling. We maybe need to change the calendar a bit and add more races, because you want the best teams in the best places in the world."
Monaco, July 19 (AP/UNB) — Former world indoor 400-meter champion Kemi Adekoya has been banned for four years for doping in another drug case to hit Bahrain's squad of elite African-born runners.
The Athletics Integrity Unit, which oversees doping cases in track and field, said Friday that Adekoya tested positive for the banned steroid stanozolol. Her ban is backdated from November 2018.
Adekoya competed for Nigeria but switched allegiance to Bahrain ahead of the 2014 Asian Games. Since then, she's won four Asian Games gold medals and an Asian championship title, plus the 2016 world indoor 400 gold in Portland.
The AIU said Adekoya's results since Aug. 24 last year would be struck out, meaning she loses her Asian Games gold medals in the 400 hurdles and the 4x400 mixed relay. The hurdles gold is due to pass to Vietnam's Quach Thi Lan and the relay gold to India.
Bahrain's longstanding policy of fielding African-born runners has come under scrutiny after Olympic marathon silver medalist Eunice Kirwa was banned for four years last month in a doping case. Another distance runner, Violah Jepchumba, was banned last year.
After countries including Bahrain and Qatar spent years recruiting African runners, the IAAF tightened the rules for changes of allegiance in track in 2018, saying it feared some athletes were being bought and sold by third parties. The new measures include a three-year waiting period and a bar on athletes transferring more than once.
Also Friday, the AIU said Indian distance runner Sanjivani Jadhav has been banned for two years for a positive test for probenecid, which can be used to mask the presence of other banned substances. Jadhav loses the bronze medal she won in the 10,000 at April's Asian championships.
Portrush, July 19 (AP/UNB) — Lee Westwood is back for another shot at erasing his "nearly man" tag in the majors.
This time at 46.
And this time with his girlfriend on the bag.
Westwood was tied for third at his 25th British Open after shooting a bogey-free, 4-under 67 in the second round on Friday to get to 7 under.
He's been in this situation before in the biggest events in golf. So many times, in fact, that he will take a nonchalant approach to the weekend.
"I literally don't care anymore," he said, standing with his hands on his hips.
It's an attitude borne out of a decade of frustration and near misses at the majors. The most agonizing have come when the claret jug was in his sights.
At Muirfield in 2013, Westwood started the final round with a two-stroke lead and shot 4-over 75 to finish four behind Phil Mickelson. He three-putted the 72nd hole to miss out on a playoff at Turnberry in 2009. At the 2010 Masters, he led after 54 holes.
Westwood has 18 top-10 finishes in his 81 appearances in the majors, and nine in the top three.
Still no major, though. And that's what he needs to cap a resume that includes rising to No. 1 in the world — he replaced Tiger Woods as the top-ranked player in 2010 — and winning the Ryder Cup seven times.
He's high on the list of the best players to have never won a major.
"I just go out there and have fun," Westwood said, downplaying any expectations. "I'm 46 years old and still competing with these young lads. Won last year. There is no pressure on me."
He would be the second-oldest British Open champion after Old Tom Morris, who was 46 years, 3 months, 9 days when he lifted the claret jug in 1867. Westwood will be 46 years, 2 months, 28 days on Sunday.
What's new this year for Westwood is the sight of girlfriend Helen on the bag for the first time at a major. A gym instructor, she took over as Westwood's caddie on a permanent basis following his win at the Nedbank Golf Challenge last year.
Westwood said she "doesn't know too much about golf" but knew a lot about how his mind works.
"There's more to caddying," Westwood said, "than counting and getting the wind direction."
It means their conversations on the course range from what they are having for dinner later, to where they will go on vacation and, Westwood quipped, if there was a nail file in the bag.
"I enjoy doing it all myself, there's no questions then," Westwood said. "Get the yardage, pull the club, get the wind. It's all my responsibility. I'm 100% clear in my own mind what I'm doing."
Look where it has got him this week.
He has birdied the tough par-3 16th hole both times he has played it, and is 4 under for the last three holes — a closing stretch where many have struggled.
On Friday, he was bogey-free for only the second time in 86 career rounds at the British Open.
With his new care-free attitude, he could yet get that elusive major just when many thought the chance had passed him by.
"It's the attitude I'm going to go with," he said, looking ahead to the weekend. "Let's see how it works out."
Geneva, July 19 (AP/UNB) — China's star swimmer Sun Yang wants a public trial at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in September to defend himself against alleged doping rule violations that risk a ban from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In a statement provided to The Associated Press on Friday, lawyers for Sun said he will ask for an open process from the Lausanne-based sports court "in order to be fully transparent and to clear his name."
The request follows details of an earlier verdict — by world swim body FINA's doping tribunal — being reported in an Australian newspaper on the eve of the world championships in South Korea where Sun is preparing to compete.
"It is CAS and CAS alone who should hear this appeal and Sun Yang objects to being tried by the Australian press," said the lawyers, based in Beijing, Geneva and London, criticizing "flagrant breaches of confidentiality."
The three-time Olympic champion's case could be the first in public at CAS since a European Court of Human Rights ruling last year gave athletes more rights to open the sports court to scrutiny.
Sun faces an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The Montreal-based agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a possible public hearing.
WADA is challenging a decision by swimming's governing body, FINA, just to warn him over incidents during a doping control team's attempts to take blood and urine samples at his home in China last September.
Media reports this year claimed Sun and his entourage destroyed a blood sample in a dispute that escalated after he questioned officials' credentials.
"Worse, while he was fully cooperating, Sun Yang then noticed during the test that one of the unauthorized officers was secretly filming him without his permission," said the statement from his lawyers.
The dispute continued beyond 11 p.m. and his request for replacement officials from Swedish-based collection agency International Doping Tests and Management was denied, his lawyers claimed.
"The officers then decided to stop the testing and gave the blood samples back to Sun Yang," the statement said.
The case threatens the reputation and career of the first Chinese swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal.
The 27-year-old freestyler won gold at each of the past two Olympics, in the 400 and 1,500 meters at the 2012 London Games and in the 200 at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
Between those two Olympics, Sun served a three-month ban in 2014 for testing positive for a substance then classed as a stimulant. That case was conducted in relative secrecy in China and only belatedly announced by FINA.
Sun faces a more severe sanction if CAS judges he broke doping rules a second time.
In South Korea, Sun is seeking individual gold medals for a fifth straight world championships, which were unaffected by his previous ban.
Pau, July 19 (AP/UNB) — Inspired by his yellow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe held off defending champion Geraint Thomas to win the only individual time trial stage of this Tour de France on Friday, a shock victory to raise French hopes that he could go all the way in yellow to Paris next week.
Cheered on by boisterous crowds hammering on roadside barriers, Alaphilippe sprang a surprise in his margin of victory on the tricky, hilly, turn-filled loop south of Pau, with spectacular views of the Pyrenees.
Having previously predicted that he'd lose time to Thomas, an expert in the race against the clock, Alaphilippe stunned even himself by emphatically relegating the Welshman into second place, 14 seconds slower.
"It's incredible," Alaphilippe said, adding that his performance reduced members of his team to tears.
"I didn't think I'd win. I was transported by the maillot jaune."
His second stage victory of this Tour — he also was victorious on Stage 3 — came 100 years to the day since the jersey was first awarded to a rider, on July 19, 1919, to Frenchman Eugène Christophe.
All eyes turn to the Pyrenees to see whether Alaphilippe can continue his dream race on Saturday ascending the legendary Tourmalet, the first of seven climbs to above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in the highest Tour in the race's 116-year history.
Alaphilippe has held the race lead for a total of nine days, wowing French fans crossing fingers and toes for their first homegrown champion since Bernard Hinault in 1985.
He leads Thomas by 1 minute, 26 seconds overall, a sizeable margin that could still melt like the Pyrenees' last snows in the July heat if he wilts on the punishing Tourmalet and, next week, in the Alps.
He furiously sought to downplay the rising expectations after his barnstorming performance in Pau, repeating that he is thinking only "day by day" and stressing that holding his own on steep high mountains and the long uphill finish to the Tourmalet would be a completely different challenge to the 27-kilometer (17-mile) time-trial route.
"One mustn't dream," Alaphilippe said.
Thomas was among those stunned by the Frenchman's ride.
"I didn't really expect that," he said. "He's obviously going incredibly well, so he's certainly the favorite and the one to watch."
Given the doping-stained history of cycling and the Tour, Alaphilippe immediately faced a question in his winner's news conference about the believability of his performance, which he batted away, seemingly unruffled.
"If it creates suspicions, that's the way it is," he said. "I'm just riding my bike in the way I like."
Alaphilippe has said he expects to suffer in the high mountains, where the likes of Thomas and specialist climbers are expected to shine. But given how Alaphilippe has continued to confound expectations with his punchy riding and gritty determination to stay in yellow, fewer are predicting he can't ride up the Champs-Elysees in the lead on July 28.
Belgian rider Thomas De Gendt, third on Stage 13 and 36 seconds slower than Alaphilippe, was among those saying he could go all the way.
"He can surprise everybody," De Gendt said.
Behind Thomas and Alaphilippe, there was significant movement in the overall standings among other riders also fighting to get on the podium.
Steven Kruijswijk from the Netherlands, fifth in Paris last year, vaulted to third overall. But his deficit to Alaphilippe grew to 2:12, having been just 1:27 off the lead before the French rider's time-trial tour de force.
Thomas' teammate, Egan Bernal, slipped from third to fifth overall, now 2:52 behind Alaphilippe. Having started the Tour in Belgium as equal co-leader with Bernal on their team, Thomas looks increasingly like the undisputed No. 1 at Ineos, although that, too, could change if he struggles in the mountains.
The no-holds-barred performance from Alaphilippe rewarded him for taking risks on the course that proved too difficult for some other riders.
Belgian Wout van Aert, a Tour rookie who won Stage 10, plowed into a roadside barrier and crashed in a right-hand curve close to the finish. He'd been one of the quickest riders on the course before hitting the deck. Medics treated him at the side of the road and then transported him away by ambulance. His team, Jumbo-Visma, said van Aert was conscious but out of the Tour with a flesh wound on his right upper leg.
Maximilian Schachmann also crashed, with the Tour rookie from Germany grimacing as he rode to the finish with a bloodied right knee.