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Tue Jan 21, 2020 3:04 am

BESANCON, France -- With defending champion Chris Froome and two-time winner Alberto Contador out of the race, the path is wide open for Vincenzo Nibali to become the first Italian to win the Tour de France since the late Marco Pantani in 1998. The French have waited even longer for a champion -- the last was Bernard Hinault way back in 1985 -- but with three riders in the top six places, hopes are growing of at least a first podium place since climber Richard Virenque finished second in 1997. After Tuesdays rest day, the race resumes with Stage 11 on Wednesday, followed by arduous mountain stages on Friday and Saturday which will reveal the genuine contenders. These are where Nibalis climbing skills could set him apart, and give him a chance to fully stamp his authority on the race. There are five days of hard climbing ahead, starting with Fridays 197.5-kilometre (122.4-mile) trek from Saint-Etienne to Chamrousse, which ends with a huge ascent of 18 kilometres (11.2 miles). As for Nibalis rivals, Contador broke his shin in a violent fall in Mondays 10th stage and Froome pulled out on stage 5 with a broken wrist. "Im not happy about what happened to Alberto and Chris," the 29-year-old Nibali said. "The climbs would have been better and more spectacular for everyone." Nibali, who won the Spanish Vuelta in 2010 and the Giro dItalia in 2013, is 2 minutes, 23 seconds ahead of Australian Richie Porte and 2:47 clear of Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, who won the Vuelta five years ago. Three Frenchmen are within four minutes of Nibali -- Romain Bardet, Tony Gallopin and Thibaut Pinot. None has come close to a podium place on a Grand Tour, although the 23-year-old Bardet and the 24-year-old Pinot have strong climbing skills. "Weve got to stay calm and study the situation," Nibali said. "The danger can come from anywhere." Porte rode as a key support rider for Froome last year on the Sky team, but now has free reign to attack. "Porte goes well in the climbs, he goes well in time trials, you have to keep a good distance on him," Nibali said. "You have to watch Valverde, he can attack at any time." The 34-year-old Valverde was handed a two-year suspension in 2010 for his involvement in the Operation Puerto doping plot, which involved dozens of riders over secretly stored blood bags. Like Nibali, Pantani was a courageous cyclist who loved to attack in the tough climbs. Pantani was found dead in a hotel room on Valentines Day in 2004 and a coroner ruled he died from cocaine poisoning. Nibali has one of Pantinis yellow jerseys at home, a gift from Pantinis mother to mark the 10th anniversary of his death. "It would be a great honour to follow on from him," said Nibali. Fridays stage will also be special for Nibali because it marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of two-time Tour champion Gino Bartali, who died in 2000 at the age of 85. "As an Italian, its a huge privilege to be asked about Bartali. I grew up watching documentaries on the big riders, the big wins of (Felice) Gimondi, Bartali and (Fausto) Coppi," Nibali said. "Theyre all in the encyclopedia of cycling. There are others like Hinault, too. Theyve written the history of cycling." The last French heyday came in the 1980s when Hinault, a five-time champion, competed against Laurent Fignon, who won in 83 and 84. Wednesdays stage is a 187.5-kilometre (116.3-mile) route in eastern France from Besancon to Oyonnax and features four small climbs. Veteran Fabian Cancellara wont be among the starters. The 33-year-old Swiss cyclist has pulled out to focus on the Road World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain, from Sept. 21-28. Cancellara withdrew prior to the start of the 11th Tour stage in 2012. Didi Gregorius Jersey . The 19-year-old Swiss centre back will initially have to impress in Uniteds reserve side to earn a spot in the first team. Veseli says "Manchester United has a long history of younger players coming through and hopefully I can follow and do the same. Miguel Yajure Jersey .C. United to a 4-1 victory over short-handed FC Dallas on Saturday night. http://www.customyankeesjersey.com/custom-adam-ottavino-jersey-large-1624i.html .com) - The NFL is investigating whether the New England Patriots intentionally deflated balls during Sundays AFC Championship Game against Indianapolis. Custom Yankees Jerseys . -- Chris Jones and Louisville have done a tremendous job protecting the basketball this season and thats led to easy victories. Thurman Munson Jersey . - A Tuesday funeral is planned in Toronto for 20-year-old Saginaw Spirit forward Terry Trafford.CLEVELAND -- The Browns have parted ways with wide receiver Davone Bess, following one disappointing season and a disturbing off season. Cleveland released the troubled wide receiver on Wednesday, an expected ending after Bess was arrested in January for assaulting a law enforcement officer at an airport and other bizarre behaviour. Bess is still owed $3.06 million for 2014, but the Browns may try to recoup some of that money. The 28-year-old Bess was acquired last April in a trade with Miami and the Browns immediately signed him to a three-year, $11.5 million contract extension that included $5.75 million guaranteed. The Browns believed the sure-handed Bess would fill a hole at slot receiver and bring leadership to a young group of wideouts. However, Bess didnt deliver on the field and his personal problems built up in recent months. Bess finished with career-lows in catches (42) and yards (362) last season, and he had several crucial drops that hurt the Browns. Bess, who spent his first five NFL seasons with the Dolphins, also muffed a punt in Kansas City, costing the Browns a chance to upset the then-unbeaten Chiefs. He never ducked any criticism for the poor performance, owneed up to his mistakes and bounced back with two touchdown catches the following week in a win over Baltimore.dddddddddddd However, he missed Clevelands final two games for personal reasons. In Jan. 16, Bess posted a photo on his Twitter page of a small package containing what appeared to be marijuana. The photo was later deleted. The next day, Bess was charged with assault on an officer, resisting arrest without violence and disorderly conduct following a confrontation at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport. According to the police report, Bess was "acting irrationally, dancing, singing with his pants repeatedly falling down." Bess also reportedly took up a "fighting stance" with the officer, who hit Bess on the leg with a baton to no effect. It was later learned that Bess had a run-in with police shortly before he was traded to Cleveland and his family had him hospitalized against his will. The Browns initially vowed to support Bess, who may still face NFL discipline for his legal misstep. Its not yet clear if he plans to continue his football career. The team also released wide receiver Brian Tyms and linebacker Paul Hazel. ' ' '

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