Lance Armstrong's struggle to dominate a surprisingly difficult Tour de France could hinge on beating the clock yesterday's individual time trial -- a decisive race on undulating terrain that tests riders to their limits. \nThe American cycling star may hold the overall lead in this year's Tour, but only by a razor-thin margin of 21 seconds that could be in danger if he is not on top of his game in the time trial. \nUnlike in past years, his top rivals feel victory is within their grasp. \n"The standings are very close," Armstrong, soaked in sweat, conceded in brief remarks to reporters. \nNo contender, including American Tyler Hamilton, competing with a double fracture of his right collarbone, bothered to mount a challenge Thursday on one of the Tour's least punishing stages. \nInstead, they rode alongside Armstrong on the flatlands from Narbonne to Toulouse, always staying within the main pack and finishing in the same time. \nThe top rivals -- Alexander Vinokourov of Kazhakstan, 1997 winner Jan Ullrich, Spanish rider Francisco Mancebo, Iban Mayo of Spain, and Hamilton -- chose to conserve their forces, hoping to chip away at Armstrong's lead during yesterday's vital individual time trial. \n"The time trial is totally going to dictate how the rest of the Tour is raced," said Frankie Andreu, a former US Postal Service teammate of Armstrong. \nThe 47km run across the sun-drenched hills from Gaillac to Cap'Decouverte is raced against the clock and riders leave several minutes apart. \nArmstrong has himself conceded the stage poses the toughest challenge since he first won the Tour in 1999. But the 31-year-old Texan has scouted the course numerous times and knows it well. \n"I've been doing extra work on the time trial bike in training," he said. But one factor that could play against him is the wind. \n"We'll have to see at the end because the wind direction might change," he said. \nBut Armstrong isn't alone in setting time aside to prepare for the time trial. \n"It's obviously a huge thing," said Australia's Baden Cooke, a fdjeux.com rider who won an earlier stage and currently holds the green jersey for best sprinter. \nVinokourov said he felt in top shape and was pleased with his performance so far. \n"It gives my morale a boost ahead the race against the clock and the Pyrenees," he said. \nIf Armstrong fails to gain a stranglehold on the race with the time trial, he knows front-runners could give him a tough time during the four stages in the mighty Pyrenees mountains, starting today. \n"He will have to respond and go with these guys when they attack on the climbs, that's what's going to be the difference," said Andreu. \nThursday's race gave lesser-known riders a chance to grab the spotlight. Armstrong finished 42 seconds behind the winner, Spanish rider Juan Antonio Flecha, competing in his first Tour. Dutch cyclist Bram De Groot finished second, and Spanish rider Isidro Nozal was third. \nHollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is following part of the Tour, returned the leader's yellow jersey to Armstrong when he ascended the podium. Earlier in the day, the two posed for pictures outside the Postal team's bus. \nPrior to Thursday's stage, Hamilton's entourage angrily denied speculation by fans and the French media that his collarbone fracture, sustained in a mass crash on July 6, was not as bad as team doctors made it out to be. \nIn front of the Team CSC bus, Bjarne Riis, the team's director and a Tour winner in 1996, held a copy of the medical X-ray showing his injuries to a crowd of photographers. \n"If they look at the X-rays and they can't see the fracture, then I can refer them to an eye specialist," said Hamilton, who has repeatedly suffered injuries and is known to persevere through pain.
The NBA said was re-evaluating its training program in China following allegations of abuse of young players by local staff and harassment of foreign staffers at a facility in Xinjiang. The comments come after a report by ESPN that quoted unnamed American coaches as saying that Chinese coaches hit young players. One American coach who worked at a camp in Xinjiang complained of harassment by local police, the sports network said. “The allegations in the ESPN article are disturbing,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in an e-mail statement on Thursday. “We ended our involvement with the basketball academy in Xinjiang in June
Taiwan Steel on Sunday grabbed three points with a narrow 1-0 win against Hang Yuan FC, to move into the No. 2 spot on the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL) log, while Taipower FC beat NTUS 2-0 to maintain first place. Taking advantage early in the match of opposition defenders who had not yet settled down, Taiwan Steel’s attacking trio of Wu Chun-ching, Marc Fenelus from the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Benchy Astama from Haiti pushed forward with good passes. After only one minute of play, Fenelus dribbled from the right flank, feeding a short pass inside the penalty area to
LEAVING IT LATE: Rakuten added late runs last night to add to wins on Wednesday against the Brothers and the Lions on Friday that went down to the last batter The Rakuten Monkeys rallied to post three late runs for another close win, prevailing 5-3 over the Uni-President Lions yesterday as Taiwan’s second-half CPBL season got started with lower scoring output, but exciting finishes. It was Rakuten’s third win in a row. In two games this week, they seized victory in dramatic fashion with their last at-bat and have drawn level with the CTBC Brothers on top of the table after yesterday’s results, 0.5 games in front of the Fubon Guardians and 1.5 games ahead of the Lions. It was tied at 1-1 early, with Rakuten hosting the Lions at the Taoyuan Intenational
STAYING COOL: Hamilton said that his ‘heart nearly stopped’ when he noticed the puncture, but he kept going to beat Alain Prost’s total of six home wins in France Lewis Hamilton said he feared he might not make it home when a last lap puncture almost derailed his charge to a record seventh British Grand Prix victory on Sunday. “I didn’t think I would make it round the last two corners,” the world champion said. The front left tire of his Mercedes had delaminated and deflated on his final lap, leaving the six-time world champion to nurse his vehicle to the finish as second-placed Max Verstappen hunted him down. “I just can’t believe it,” Hamilton said. “It was heart-stopping. I backed off and stayed chilled and was so glad it happened on