PLA DADET, France -- On the last of four Pyrenees ascents, Rafal Majka winked at a French TV camera and tugged playfully at a motorcycles antenna. Even this late in the Tour de France, the Polish rider made winning look easy as he took Stage 17 on Wednesday. For Vincenzo Nibali, the second ride in the mountains on Frances border with Spain was more serious. "The Shark" nibbled yet more seconds away from several of his closest challengers, and the yellow jersey that he has worn for all but two days of the race seemed to fit just a little more tightly ahead of the finish Sunday in Paris. Nibali was even businesslike with his own prime minister, imploring him not to get too ahead of himself in celebration. "Its true that I received a text message from Matteo Renzi, who invited me to Chigi Palace to celebrate my victory," the cautious Sicilian said about the premiers official residence. "I replied that only after winning -- if I do so -- Ill be able to say that Ill be present." The 124.5-kilometre (77-mile) trek Wednesday was the shortest stage in this years Tour. It covered three hard Category 1 ascents from Saint-Gaudens and a final push up to Pla dAdet ski station above the town of Saint-Lary-Soulan. Majka, who also won Stage 14 in the Alps, again showed hes the best climber in this Tour and tightened his grip on the polka dot jersey awarded to the races King of the Mountains. Giovanni Visconti got the action going on the last climb with a solo breakaway with about nine kilometres (5 1/2 miles) left, but could not hold off Majka. Visconti, who also is Sicilian, was second, 29 seconds back, and Nibali was third, 46 seconds behind. With a last Pyrenean day ahead Thursday, Majka could ensure that he takes the red-dot jersey home. His closest rival for it when the stage started was Spains Joaquim Rodriguez, who swatted the air in frustration at Majka when the Pole broke away on the last climb. Majka said he felt "comfort" in the last five kilometres in part because hed been saving up energy a day earlier by riding easier. He finished in a bunch 24 1/2 minutes behind Australian teammate Michael Rogers, who won Stage 16. By Wednesday, "I felt really, really good in the last climb," Majka said, after tapping his chest, thrusting his arms skyward and shouting in joy at the victory. "For me, when there are a lot of climbs, its the best." There was a time when seemingly effortless victories smacked of something more sinister at the Tour: the use of performance-enhancers. Few know the scars of cyclings doping past more than Majkas own manager at the Tinkoff-Saxo Bank team, Bjarne Riis. Once a national hero in Denmark after winning the 1996 Tour, he admitted to using blood-booster EPO more than a decade later -- and was vilified for it. He laid low for a while, but then returned to the pro cycling world. "I promised Bjarne today that I would win the stage," said Majka. The echoes of doping resonated Wednesday on the grassy Pyrenean mountainside: The last times that Saint-Lary-Soulan hosted Tour stage finishes were in 2001 and 2005 -- won by Lance Armstrong and teammate George Hincapie. Those wins were later stripped because of doping. Their names have been crossed out in the official Tour history book. Cycling has made great strides in fighting doping with enhanced blood and urine testing, along with the biological passport program, but few experts would claim that the peloton today is entirely clean. Nibali, who has called himself a "flag-bearer of anti-doping", made his latest case to become the first Italian to win cyclings showcase race in 16 years -- since Marco Pantani, who was once convicted for doping. Nibali gained just under a minute on four of his closest rivals. Second-placed Alejandro Valverde of Spain, who made a valiant recovery on the last ascent to avoid even more damage, now trails by 5 minute, 26 seconds. The exception was Jean-Christophe Peraud of France, who hugged closely on the leaders back wheel and finished fourth. With his performance, the 37-year-old Frenchman made it an even closer race for the podium spots. He is fourth overall, 6:08 behind Nibali, but just eight seconds slower than fellow Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, in third. American Tejay van Garderen, in sixth, also lost about a minute to Nibali and trails by 10:19. It came a day after his hopes for a podium spot were dealt a big blow when he lost several minutes to the other aspirants for a top-three finish in Paris. "Yesterday was a pity, it was an off day," the BMC leader said. A podium spot is still possible, he added, "but it will be hard." Stage 18s finale in the Pyrenees takes the pack on a 145.5-kilometre (90-mile) loop from Pau to Hautacam, featuring two ascents that are so hard that they defy cyclings ranking system -- one of them an uphill finish. Then its a flat stage heading northward Friday before an individual time-trial a day later, and then whats likely to be the largely ceremonial ride for the yellow jersey in Stage 21 on Sunday to the Champs-Elysees in Paris for the finish of the races 101st edition. While well-positioned to be in yellow then, Nibali was still attacking Wednesday. "I preferred to go and gain a few more seconds and to be even more serene, just in case something could happen," he said. Chris Jones Jersey
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. Sections of the British media reported Friday that Brooklyn Beckham, the son of United great David, was invited to a training session at the club on Thursday.With the NFL Draft coming up on April 28, we thought it was an important time to review the Draft from 2015. So heres Alex Ferguson, our resident US sportswriter, to talk about his top five picks from last year… and the top five failures. Last years draft was a mixed bag, and we know that were giving these rookies just one year in the NFL. And for each and every one of them, we hope they dont flame out and become Johnny Manziel. That wont be a good look.Top five success storiesAmari Cooper (Oakland Raiders) Watch Amari Coopers 52-yard touchdown against the San Diego Chargers. Wide receiver out of Alabama picked in fourth. I had no qualms with Oaklands pick of Cooper. He was one of the greatest wide receivers in recent college football history, tearing up one of the toughest conferences while he was doing it. And after 72 receptions, 1,072 yards and six TDs, nor did the Raiders fans.Todd Gurley (St Louis Rams) Todd Gurley put in a star perfomance when he faced the San Francisco 49ers. He only started on September 27, after NFL physicians had given him the go-ahead for a torn-up knee after he practised without pads and without injury. Gurley - who was a fantastic running back at Georgia with a style that seemed to go after defenders rather than go around them - shone. He posted 1,106 yards and 10 TDs and got a Pro Bowl selection. Not bad, sir.Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) Jameis Winston drives through the Atlanta Falcons defense to score a TD Winston was picked first and I worried about his off-field antics. Well, there were none this season, and Winsston acted like the leader Tampa wanted.dddddddddddd Throwing for 4,042 yards and 22 TDs was an excellent result. The 15 INTs? Not so great. He was also elected to his first Pro Bowl after Tom Brady decided not to play.Leonard Williams (New York Jets) Leonard Williams poses with Roger Goodell at the 2015 Draft Williams was a monster coming out of USC, and a lot of people were talking about his selection as the No 1 pick. The 6ft 4ins, 302lb defensive end shone out for the Jets, finishing the season with 63 tackles and three sacks. I cant wait to see what this guys future is like.Brandon Scherff (Washington Redskins) Brandon Scherff made his mother proud at last years Draft I was considering Scherff or New Yorks Ereck Flowers for the fifth position, but I went with Scherff because - and this was despite the fact he was moved to an alien position in right guard at the start of the season - he started every game of the season and quietened a lot of very, very good players.Top five failuresDante Fowler (Jacksonville Jaguars) Dante Fowler stole the show at the 2015 Draft but injury ruined his season Picked third overall and was the first non-quarterback to be picked in the 2015 Draft. His speed and nose for the ball excited me a lot at Florida, and the Jaguars ownership saw the same thing. He tore his ACL on his first day in mini-camp and was out for the year… and still signed a four-year, $23.5m contract with $15m guaranteed a few days after. If this was Britain, youd be hearing the chanting What a waste of money!Kevin White (Chicago Bears) Kevin White poses with his Bears jersey Did White even start a game before he had a shin injury that prevented him playing for the rest of the season? Needless to say, Bears fans werent happy.DeVante Parker (Miami Dolphins) DeVante Parker holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell I was ecstatic for Dolphins fans about getting Parker, who was a top wide receiver at Louisville. When he sustained his foot injury that put him out for the year in October, I wanted to give Fins fans a hug.Melvin Gordon (San Diego Chargers) Melvin Gordon and his mother prepare for the 2015 Draft Gordon wasnt a straight-up flop for the Chargers but when you talk to their fans, they are hardly happy with their 15th selection. In 16 games he failed to produce a touchdown over 650 total yards rushing… but did produce five fumbles. That meant that he was second in line to Danny Woodhead by the end of it.Phillip Dorsett (Indianapolis Colts) Phillip Dorsett struggled to impress in his rookie year Maybe it was because Andrew Luck was out for most of the year. Maybe it was because he wasnt good enough in game or practice. Either way, we cant really remember Dorsett from this season - and looking at his numbers (18 receptions, 225 yards, one TD in 11 games), we can see why. Was this a brutal failure? No. But it certainly wasnt great. Also See: NFL Video Rookies guide NFL on Sky Sports Pundits Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys
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