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Woods upbeat despite narrow defeat in Vuelta a España transition stage –



Mike Woods‘ time on the bike with current team EF Pro Cycling may be just days away from ending but the Canadian showed again on Wednesday in the Vuelta a España he is determined to go out on as high a note as possible.

Second on stage 6 at Formigal, the winner at Orduña 24 hours later, and also working hard to protect teammate and GC option Hugh Carthy on mountain stages like the Angliru, Woods got in a very solid seven-rider break en route to Ourense on stage 14, one of the Vuelta’s tougher transition stages.

One of the strongest riders in the move and able to pull back time after the group split on a late descent, Woods was narrowly out-powered at the line in a technical uphill finale by Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal).  Woods said afterwards that a mis-calculation about a late lefthand bend played no small part in his defeat.

“I knew it was turning and that’s why I wanted to be on the front with 200 metres to go,” Woods told Cyclingnews afterwards, “but I didn’t expect it to turn as hard as it did.

“And so even though Wellens got in front of me [going into the corner], I was hoping I could still come around him.” Indeed, Woods tried to do exactly that as the two came round the final sharp bend, but as the saying goes, the line arrived too quickly for the Canadian to get back on terms.

On the plus side, Woods had come impressively close to victory in what was a dauntingly powerful break. It included not only Wellens but also riders as well-known as former Paris-Nice winner Marc Soler (Movistar) and Classics expert Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-QuickStep)  as well as Ineos-Grenadiers’ Dylan Van Baarle, one of Richard Carapaz’s top domestiques in this year’s Vuelta. 

Two more riders, 20-year-old Thymen Arensman (Team Sunweb), who is riding a hugely impressive first-ever Grand Tour and already third behind Wellens in the first week in another break, along with the formidably experienced French racer Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis). They showed their strength, as well, by bridging across soon after the original move had formed.

“It was one of the better breaks I’ve ever been in,” Woods said, “I’ve rarely been in a move with that level quality of rider and you felt it. It was heart-rate racing all day, we were just crunching it. I think even though you wanted  to win, there was a good feeling in general  – after the stage we were all giving each other fist-bumps.”

In an intensely tactical finale, on the last ascent of the day, the third category Alto de Abeilaira positioned 22 kilometres from the line, the Canadian opened up the round of late attacks.

“I was on the front and I just got a gap and I tried to capitalize on it, it was similar to how I went on stage 7,” Woods told Cyclingnews. “Someone just let the wheel go a bit and I went for it, I figured maybe only one or two guys would get across.

“But because everyone was a winner there, everyone fought to come back. And then on the descent, I made the mistake of getting behind Dylan and the rider from Sunweb [Arensman], so I was last onto the the descent.”

“Stybar”, riding an aero-bike, so clearly a man on a mission, “opened a gap on the descent and Dylan and the Sunweb rider weren’t able to follow. I could get around the Sunweb guy, but not around Dylan and then the gap was open by then.

“Wellens, Soler and Stybar capitalized on that and then it was three”, with Woods, Arensman and Van Baarle chasing and Périchon dropped, “against three for almost nine kilometres,” back into the centre of Ourense for the final showdown.

“We were all riding full gas and we were able to make it back. It was touch and go, but I figured if we kept on riding hard we had a shot.”

The final shoot-out with Wellens did not go Woods’ way, but as Woods said, looking at the global picture, EF are riding a notably successful race in Spain

“This has been the best performance in a Grand Tour I’ve been a part of with EF,” said Woods, who has racked up three Vueltas, two Giros and a Tour with the American team since he joined in 2016.

“We’ve had two stage wins, I’ve had two second places and now Hugh is sitting in third overall right now. It’s really nice, the morale’s high and I think the way Hugh’s riding, we’re confident he can protect that podium position as well. It’s a really nice place for the team to be.”

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics



Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?



It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s



Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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