Patxi Vila: Bring Peter Sagan to the finish line and you have a problem

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) took his second stage in as many years in Uraidla on Thursday at the Tour Down Under. The Slovakian fended off a challenge from Astana’s Luis Leon Sanchez and defending champion Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott).

The 146-kilometre course featured one categorised climb and seven hilly laps through the town to the east of Adelaide. It amassed nearly 3,500m of elevation gain over the route and was likened to an Ardennes Classic at the start line in Lobethal.

The stage was expected to be one of the first GC shakeups of the race, and although Sagan won the stage into the same town last season, it was on a very different parcours and the Slovakian wasn’t the top pick of the day. Bora-Hansgrohe coach and directeur sportif, Patxi Vila admitted even the team weren’t expecting Sagan to take the stage.

“We’re getting used to this sort of result but it’s surprising actually,” Vila said to reporters after the stage. “We never thought he could be able to win today, I mean we thought the effort would be too hard, so it wasn’t something we thought about.

“The race went smoothly until three laps to go, and then the last three laps were one hour of racing at full gas. The temperature was not so high today so at this moment it’s OK, whatever you feel. Our goal was to have Jay [McCarthy] in the front group for GC and with Peter, we left it up to him and how the race was looking, and it was a good race for us in terms of pacing. We were one of the first teams to come to Australia, so I think the adaption to the heat we have is a bit better than other teams so that also paid on our side.”

Though Vila did not expect Sagan to be in the mix for the victory, as the race began to crescendo in the final two laps of the course it became clear that a number of puncheurs including Impey, Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Michael Valgren (Dimension Data) and Sagan could all be in the mix for the stage, alongside the main GC protagonists.

Despite late attacks from Kenny Elissonde (Team Sky) and Michael Woods (EF Education First), no single team could control the race, leaving Sagan, Impey and Sanchez to battle out the stage in a sprint.

“If you bring Peter Sagan with 10km to go and there’s only a couple of one-kilometre climbs, you have a problem. I mean, he’s a winner, he’s a racer, and he likes to race to win. Once he sees the finish line is close then the other teams have a real problem.”

Sagan’s surprise stage victory will be a welcome one for Bora-Hansgrohe and although the team brought Jay McCarthy – who has twice finished in the top five on GC at the race – as their overall contender, Sagan could be an outside bet. It will depend on how the GC riders race if he can stay in contention on the Corkscrew and Willunga Hill climbs in the coming days – alongside a final stage for the sprinters on Saturday – the three-time world champion could continue to raise eyebrows.

“Our plan was more to see how he was today and try something tomorrow but now I think we actually need to change our plan,” said Vila. “Tomorrow is 2.4 kilometres of really steep climbing that will be around 9-10 minutes of climbing, which will be a different story than today. Today was a load of bumps, just two or three minutes but tomorrow will be really hard.”

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Jess Varnish: ‘I’m disappointed with the judgement but I have no regrets’

The former track sprinter has released a statement after she lost her employment tribunal against British Cycling

Former track sprinter Jess Varnish said she is “disappointed” to lose her case against British Cycling and UK Sport, but that she already felt she had won by instigating change.

The 28-year-old launched proceedings against British Cycling and UK Sport in an attempt to prove she was an employee of the two bodies.

Varnish had been subjected to discriminatory language at the hands of former technical director Shane Sutton.

She then needed to prove she was employed by British Cycling and UK sport, rather than being self employed, in order to sue the organisations for wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination.

But the employment tribunal, held in Manchester, concluded on Wednesday (January 16) with Varnish losing the case.

>>> Email sent from testosterone supplier to Dr Richard Freeman obtained by BBC 

In a statement, released on Thursday afternoon (January 17) she said: “I knew at the beginning of the trial, no matter the outcome, that I had already won.

“Since I first spoke out in April 2016 about my experience at British Cycling, significant change has taken place.

“I firmly believe this change happened because the athletes brought to light the culture of fear and lack of investment in athlete welfare that permeated through the British Cycling World Class Performance system.”

Varnish was pulled from British Cycling’s elite programme in April 2016, shortly before she publicly alleged sexual discrimination by Sutton.

Sutton denied the allegations but an internal investigation upheld that he used “inappropriate and discriminatory language” towards Varnish.

The full report has not been published, but it later emerged that only one of nine complaints against Sutton was upheld.

He resigned from his post in 2016 and later took up a role with the Chinese national track squad.

>>> Riders face disqualification, bans and suspension for using tramadol in competition as UCI bans painkiller

At the employment tribunal, both BC and UK Sport claimed that national lottery funding awarded to Olympic athletes – which can be as much as £28,000 tax-free per annum – was similar to a university grant and therefore its athletes were not afforded the same employment rights.

This view was backed by Judge Ross on Wednesday evening. UK Sport said it gave it “confidence that the structure of the relationship between other national governing bodies, their athletes and UK Sport can continue in a similar way, but we will reflect on the concerns that were raised through this case.”

British Cycling said it believed the decision was in the best interests of riders who represent Britain, and that the governing body was a service provider to athletes and not an employer.

Varnish added: “I am disappointed at the judgement, but I have no regrets in going through this process.

“Despite meetings, mediation and attempts at settlement, it was clear that the only way to engage and ensure change occurred within these organisations was a legal challenge. There is no other option open to Athletes.

“It has been a long three years, and it has cost me a lot, but as I said earlier, I have no regrets.

“I hold my head high knowing that I left no stone unturned and always told the truth. In that time, I’ve almost completed my degree in sports & exercise nutrition, set up my own personal training business and am now starting a family. I am excited about the future.”

Varnish said she would be meeting with her legal representatives and would consider appealing the tribunal decision.

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Britain’s Konta loses to Muguruza in 3.12am finish

Johanna Konta

Australian Open 2019
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 January
Coverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and watch highlights on BBC TV and online from 19 January.

Britain’s Johanna Konta was knocked out of the Australian Open in a second-round match against Garbine Muguruza which finished at 3:12am local time.

Konta, 27, lost 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 in Melbourne in one of the latest finishes in the tournament’s history.

Spaniard Muguruza, 25, nicked a tight final set in front of about 250 remaining fans on Margaret Court Arena.

“I can’t believe there are people watching us at 3:15am,” the two-time Grand Slam champion said.

The 18th seed took her first match point to win in two hours 42 minutes.

“It was very tough. Johanna played very good, serving incredibly and hitting big shots,” Muguruza said.

Rain and lengthy matches earlier on day four meant Konta and Muguruza did not start until 12:30am.

Muguruza will face Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky in the third round.

More to follow.

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I’ve been physically threatened by Tomic, says Hewitt

Bernard Tomic and Lleyton Hewitt

Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt claims he has been threatened “physically” and “blackmailed” by his former team-mate Bernard Tomic.

Hewitt, 37, said he and “close knit family” had received threats directly from the world number 88 over the past “year and a half”.

Hewitt, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion, said he did not take them seriously.

Tomic could not be contacted by BBC Sport for a response.

Former world number one Hewitt was responding to comments made by Tomic after the 26-year-old’s Australian Open first-round loss in Melbourne on Monday.

Tomic claimed there was a “conflict of interests” in Hewitt’s Davis Cup team selections and demanded he was removed from the role. Tomic has not played for his country in the competition since 2016.

Tomic claimed some players were picked for the Davis Cup team – and given Australian Open wildcards – because they were represented by a management company owned by Hewitt.

“This is what we’ve come to expect from Bernie,” Hewitt said after playing in the men’s doubles on Thursday.

“Whatever Grand Slam it is, after a first-round loss he will come out with something.”

Hewitt started mentoring Tomic after retiring as a singles player, but says he has “not had anything to do” with Tomic for a couple of years.

“For me the biggest frustration is I feel like I went out of my way to help Bernie,” Hewitt, who won the 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon titles, said.

“Especially when I first came into the role, I spent a lot of time with him one and one, and at a lot of tournaments, tried to get a coaching structure and physical team around him to give him best opportunity.

“He still kept making the wrong mistakes.

“After the abuse I copped from him, I drew a line in the sand and haven’t spoke to him since.

“The threats I’ve received for me and my family, that I’ve had for a year and half now, I don’t think anyone would reach out to him again to a person who speaks like that.”

Asked what sort of threats, he replied: “They were blackmail threats and physical.”

Tomic split with Hewitt’s long-term agent David Drysdale in 2017.

Speaking on Monday Tomic said: “No one likes him any more. He’s doing the wrong thing. We don’t want to play any more because he’s ruined the system.”

Asked if there was a rift between him and Hewitt, he said: “Not really. I’ve always wanted to play Davis Cup. I love Davis Cup. If I don’t play, I don’t play. I’m available. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

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I’ve been physically threatened by Tomic, says Hewitt

Bernard Tomic and Lleyton Hewitt

Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt claims he has been threatened “physically” and “blackmailed” by his former team-mate Bernard Tomic.

Hewitt, 37, said he and “close knit family” had received threats directly from the world number 88 over the past “year and a half”.

Hewitt, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion, said he did not take them seriously.

Tomic could not be contacted by BBC Sport for a response.

Former world number one Hewitt was responding to comments made by Tomic after the 26-year-old’s Australian Open first-round loss in Melbourne on Monday.

Tomic claimed there was a “conflict of interests” in Hewitt’s Davis Cup team selections and demanded he was removed from the role. Tomic has not played for his country in the competition since 2016.

Tomic claimed some players were picked for the Davis Cup team – and given Australian Open wildcards – because they were represented by a management company owned by Hewitt.

“This is what we’ve come to expect from Bernie,” Hewitt said after playing in the men’s doubles on Thursday.

“Whatever Grand Slam it is, after a first-round loss he will come out with something.”

Hewitt started mentoring Tomic after retiring as a singles player, but says he has “not had anything to do” with Tomic for a couple of years.

“For me the biggest frustration is I feel like I went out of my way to help Bernie,” Hewitt, who won the 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon titles, said.

“Especially when I first came into the role, I spent a lot of time with him one and one, and at a lot of tournaments, tried to get a coaching structure and physical team around him to give him best opportunity.

“He still kept making the wrong mistakes.

“After the abuse I copped from him, I drew a line in the sand and haven’t spoke to him since.

“The threats I’ve received for me and my family, that I’ve had for a year and half now, I don’t think anyone would reach out to him again to a person who speaks like that.”

Asked what sort of threats, he replied: “They were blackmail threats and physical.”

Tomic split with Hewitt’s long-term agent David Drysdale in 2017.

Speaking on Monday Tomic said: “No one likes him any more. He’s doing the wrong thing. We don’t want to play any more because he’s ruined the system.”

Asked if there was a rift between him and Hewitt, he said: “Not really. I’ve always wanted to play Davis Cup. I love Davis Cup. If I don’t play, I don’t play. I’m available. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

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Chris Froome shares first monster ride of 2019 on Strava

The Brit put in a 225km shift with team-mate Salvatore Puccio

It’s that time of the year again – the moment Chris Froome unleashes his superhuman training efforts on the world by posting his rides on Strava.

Last January, Froome opened the year with a massive collection of kilometres, racking up 4,000km in January alone.

At the end of the month, he set out for a six-hour blast from his home just north of Johannesburg and covered a staggering 271km, which he then titled ‘empty the tank’ on Strava.

Froome has now uploaded his first Strava ride of 2019, and it’s another epic effort.

>>> Edvald Boasson Hagen used cycling treadmill for monster six-hour Zwift training ride

This time the Team Sky star set out with Italian team-mate Salvatore Puccio for a 225km blast around the eastern edge of South Africa.

Over the six-hour ride, the Brit averaged 34.5km/h, and hit a max speed of 78.1km/h, with a whopping 6,000 metres of climbing.

Froome appears to have kept data from his power meter firmly under wraps, but Strava estimates he maxxed out at 1,300watts and averaged 298w over the duration.

Surprisingly, Froome didn’t scoop any KoMs out on the ride, but Puccio did managed to top the leaderboard on three segments.

>>> Watch: Top five Strava cheats (video)

Their route covered nine categorised segments, including the R533 Climb -7.26km at seven per cent – and Kowyn’s pass uphill, 8km at six per cent average.

Last January, Froome treated his fans by uploading his January training miles to the social media app for athletes, letting cycling followers see exactly how much training it takes to win Grand Tours.

As you would expect from a man targeting both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France last year, there were some pretty monstrous base miles, with Froome kicking off the year with a 32-hour week in which he rode more than 1,000km.

So far in 2019 he has only uploaded the one ride, titled ‘African Experience for Salva’ – short for Salvatore.

Puccio may not have enjoyed the ride quite as much as Froome, as he posted the ride with the title ‘Killed by Froomey, season is over.’

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Chris Froome shares first monster ride of 2019 on Strava

The Brit put in a 225km shift with team-mate Salvatore Puccio

It’s that time of the year again – the moment Chris Froome unleashes his superhuman training efforts on the world by posting his rides on Strava.

Last January, Froome opened the year with a massive collection of kilometres, racking up 4,000km in January alone.

At the end of the month, he set out for a six-hour blast from his home just north of Johannesburg and covered a staggering 271km, which he then titled ‘empty the tank’ on Strava.

Froome has now uploaded his first Strava ride of 2019, and it’s another epic effort.

>>> Edvald Boasson Hagen used cycling treadmill for monster six-hour Zwift training ride

This time the Team Sky star set out with Italian team-mate Salvatore Puccio for a 225km blast around the eastern edge of South Africa.

Over the six-hour ride, the Brit averaged 34.5km/h, and hit a max speed of 78.1km/h, with a whopping 6,000 metres of climbing.

Froome appears to have kept data from his power meter firmly under wraps, but Strava estimates he maxxed out at 1,300watts and averaged 298w over the duration.

Surprisingly, Froome didn’t scoop any KoMs out on the ride, but Puccio did managed to top the leaderboard on three segments.

>>> Watch: Top five Strava cheats (video)

Their route covered nine categorised segments, including the R533 Climb -7.26km at seven per cent – and Kowyn’s pass uphill, 8km at six per cent average.

Last January, Froome treated his fans by uploading his January training miles to the social media app for athletes, letting cycling followers see exactly how much training it takes to win Grand Tours.

As you would expect from a man targeting both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France last year, there were some pretty monstrous base miles, with Froome kicking off the year with a 32-hour week in which he rode more than 1,000km.

So far in 2019 he has only uploaded the one ride, titled ‘African Experience for Salva’ – short for Salvatore.

Puccio may not have enjoyed the ride quite as much as Froome, as he posted the ride with the title ‘Killed by Froomey, season is over.’

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Terrifying video shows moment Spanish film star mowed down by car while cycling

One of Spain’s best known actors was completing a charity challenge when he was hit from behind

A shocking video shows the moment a famous Spanish film star was hit by a car travelling at full speed while he was cycling.

Dani Rovira, who starred in a hugely popular Spanish film from 2014, was on his way to completing a charity cycling challenge when he and a fellow cyclist were struck from behind.

The footage was captured from a car accompanying the pair as they filmed a documentary to raise aware of a Rett syndrome, a rare neurological disorder.

>>> Motorbike organisation calls for cyclists to wear identification numbers

Rovira, 38, has called for drivers to be more respectful of cyclists after the crash, which happened two years ago.

In the video Rovira, who starred in the 2014 film Spanish Affair, said: “We are still here because it wasn’t our time to go.

“Let’s respect one another on the roads.”

Rovira was riding alongside Martín Giacchetta, a firefighter and personal trainer whose daughter has from Rett syndrome, when the pair were struck by the car from behind.

The driver was distracted by his mobile phone, which he tried to pick up from the floor after it fell inside the car, reports Spanish news outlet ABC.

>>> ‘Passionate’ founder of cycling club dies in van crash while riding

Rovira and Giacchetta were in France when they were hit as they attempted to ride an 11-stage route from Barcelona to Rome where they were due to meet the pope.

Miraculously, neither men suffered injuries but their bikes were damaged.

Rovira told ABC: “We know what happened because it was recorded.

“I was in shock all that day.

“I did not feel afraid – that came to me the next day when I had to get back on the bike.

“That’s when my legs started to shake.”

The video footage shows Rovira and Giacchetta riding along the carriageway with vehicles passing in the outside lanes, when a black vehicle rapidly approaches from behind at speed and hits the pair.

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Australian Open 2019: Serena Williams beats Eugenie Bouchard in second round

Serena Williams

Australian Open 2019
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 January
Coverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and watch highlights on BBC TV and online from 19 January.

Serena Williams swatted aside Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets to continue her quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

The American 16th seed made a rapid start on her way to a 6-2 6-2 victory over the 2014 Wimbledon finalist.

Not everything went the 37-year-old’s way, but she demonstrated why she is considered the tournament favourite.

Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, ranked 59th, awaits her in the third round.

More to follow.

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