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Monday 20 November 2017

Most punishing Tour in years

AFTER Monday's brutal Stage 10, a bemused 3-times Tour de France winner Greg Lemond observed, "This is a different race every single day."

Lemond had witnessed another excruciating day for the riders on which unseasonal downpours added to the hazards of a 161.5km course with seven categorised climbs.

Crashes and accidents on the Tour have already forced the withdrawal of Mark Cavendish, defending champion Chris Froome and, on Monday, Alberto Contrador, who suffered a broken leg and damaged elbow in a crash when his bike hit a pothole on a 97 kph descent.

With the Alps and the Pyrenees still to come and the peloton already shellshocked, this Tour is becoming a real war of attrition.

 

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Omitted from Team Sky, former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins has the Commonwealth Games to look forward to later in the month while super-domestique Richie Porte, who's taken Chris Froome's place as leader of Team Sky, starts today's Stage second overall. just 2.23 minutes behind race leader, and favourite, Vincenzo Nibali. Porte, a fiercely competitive rider from Tasmania, says, "You have to be ready for when something happens and respond as calmly and quickly as possible. I'm ready."

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Like Garth Brooks, Mickey Harte won't get to perform in Croke Park this summer. Disappointed fans of the "crushed" country singer might wish that their hero had taken a lead from the Tyrone manager who, having been dumped out of the Championship by Armagh, said of his shattered team, "In due course, everybody will look at their position and see if they have the heart, desire and will to give it another go."

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With the event set to be staged in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022, there's a concern that the exuberant 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil may have been the last great football tournament. In awarding Brazil 9.25 out of 10 for its atmosphere and organisation, FIFA president Sepp Blatter inadvertently put pressure on 2018 hosts, Russia. Not that the chairman of the Local Organising Committee, Alexey Sorokin, is too bothered. "There is no fear from us," he declares. "We benefitted from the experience of being in Brazil. It was an incredible atmosphere and great organisation. We will do our very best to not only match it but to supercede it." A report of the investigation into alleged corruption in regards the 2018 and 2022 bidding process is due to be published later this month.

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The last time the British Open was held at Hoylake (2006), it was Tiger Woods who lifted the 142-year old claret jug. Can Woods, recovering from back surgery in March, repeat his success at Royal Liverpool? America's Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson says, "He's a tough competitor. He might very well win this tournament."

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