Sports Shorts: Podium places to be decided in final time trial
After almost three weeks of action-packed racing the minor podium places in the Tour de France are likely to be decided in Saturday's final time trial.
The 54-km solo effort against the clock between Bergerac and Perigueux should be won by German Tony Martin, triple world champion in the discipline, but most eyes will be on a couple of Frenchmen and Spain's Alejandro Valverde.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali is expected to wrap up the Tour title as he leads Thibaut Pinot by 7:10 - a virtually unassailable lead if the Astana rider avoids crashes on a straightforward course.
"There are no risks to be taken but I will honour the yellow jersey, the Tour, my team mates and ride it like a leader," Nibali told reporters.
Pinot, who is not a time trial specialist but has dramatically improved in the discipline this season, holds a 13-second lead over compatriot Jean-Christophe Peraud while Valverde lies fourth overall, two seconds further back.
French FDJ.fr rider Pinot could drop to fourth while Peraud and Valverde, who both have national time trial titles, may be battling for second.
There are no categorised climbs on the course but it does feature a few bumps - which will suit Pinot, Valverde and Peraud.
Valverde's Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzue is hopeful his protege will secure a podium finish in Paris.
A final grand tour time trial is decided at least as much on freshness than skills after three weeks of demanding racing.
Next: Force India happy to retain drivers
Image: Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and Astana Pro Cycling celebrates winning the eighteenth stage
Photographs: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Force India happy to retain drivers: Mallya
Force India are happy with their current pairing of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez and see no need to replace either driver next season, the Formula One team's owner Vijay Mallya said on Friday.
"We have options on both and I’m very happy with both of them and I see no reason why we should be looking at any change," he told reporters at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
German driver Hulkenberg and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso are the only two drivers on the starting grid to have scored points in all 10 grands prix so far this year.
Mexican Perez finished third at the Bahrain Grand Prix in April for only the team's second podium placing in their history.
Former Sauber and McLaren driver Perez has also brought some sponsorship to the team and will be very much in the spotlight next season when Mexico hosts a grand prix for the first time in 23 years.
The Mercedes-powered team are currently fifth overall in the constructors' championship, two points ahead of McLaren.
Next: Lauda apologises to Ferrari
Image: Vijay Mallya
Lauda apologises to Ferrari for derogatory comment
Niki Lauda has apologised to Ferrari for making critical comments about his former team's Formula One car.
The retired triple champion, who is now non-executive chairman of championship leaders Mercedes and also a television pundit, was quoted in Spanish newspaper El Pais last weekend as saying Fernando Alonso was driving a rubbish car.
Mercedes have won nine out of 10 races this year with Britain's Lewis Hamilton and Germany's Nico Rosberg. Ferrari have not won a race for more than a year and McLaren since 2012.
Lauda is famous in Formula One for his direct opinions, accompanied with earthy expressions that were brought to a cinema audience last year with the release of the Hollywood movie 'Rush' about his 1976 rivalry with James Hunt.
Ferrari principal Marco Mattiacci told reporters at the Hungarian Grand Prix that Lauda - who won his first two titles with the Italian team in 1975 and 1977 - was forgiven.
"I have the utmost respect for Niki Lauda. For me he is an iconic figure of my childhood and in particular for Ferrari," he said.
"Today he came to our pit to apologise and honestly I feel very uncomfortable...receiving an excuse from such a champion that I think has been put in the middle of something.
"I think it’s clear he is a friend of Ferrari and I have utmost respect for Niki. So chapter closed."
Next: Isner downs Aussie battler
Image: David Beckham (second right) watches with Niki Lauda
Photographs: Pablo Sanchez/Reuters
Isner downs Aussie battler to reach Atlanta semis
Top seed John Isner has forged ahead into the semi-finals at the Atlanta Open after disposing of Australian eighth seed Marinko Matosevic in straight sets on Friday.
The towering defending champion was broken in the first game of the match but responded well to claim the contest 7-6, 6-4 blasting 17 aces with his first serve on fire.
Matosevic blew a chance to claim the first set but Isner ultimately sealed the tiebreak 8-6.
World number 12 Isner broke Matosevic in the seventh game of the second set and closed the match with a thunderbolt ace.
The 21-year-old Jack Sock booked a semi-final with Isner with a 7-6, 6-2 win over Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko, assuring the home nation of someone to cheer in the final.
Next: Italy administrator caught up in racism row
Image: John Isner of the United States plays a forehand
Photographs: Robert Prezioso/Getty Images
Italy administrator caught up in racism row
Carlo Tavecchio, the favourite to become the next Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president, has been caught up in a racism storm after referring to African players as "banana eaters". The influx of foreign players has been a hot topic since the national team crashed out of the World Cup in the group stage and 71-year-old Tavecchio suggested Italy should replicate England's stringent requirements for non-EU players.
"In England, they identify the players coming in and, if they are professional, they are allowed to play," Tavecchio said at the summer assembly of Italy's amateur leagues (LND).
"Here instead we get 'Opti Poba', who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first team player with Lazio.
"That's how it is here. In England, you need to demonstrate what you have on your CV and your pedigree."
Questioned by reporters about the comments afterwards, Tavecchio claimed that he could not remember what he had said in his own speech.
"I can't remember if I said the word 'banana' but I was referring to the CV and professionalism required by English football for players who come from Africa or other countries." he explained.
"If anyone has interpreted my speech as offensive, I offer my apologies."
Tavecchio, the head of the LND, is expected to beat former AC Milan and Italy midfielder Demetrio Albertini to the top job in the August 11 vote. The pair are both currently vice-presidents of the FIGC.
The battle for control of Italian soccer's governing body comes after the resignation of former president Giancarlo Abete, who stepped down immediately after Italy's embarrassing early exit from the World Cup.
Next: AFC throws the booklet at match-fixing in Asia
Image: Carlo Tavecchio attends an Italy training session
Photographs: Claudio Villa/Getty Images
AFC throws the booklet at match-fixing in Asia
A pamphlet highlighting the '3Rs' - recognise, reject and report - is the latest tool to be distributed by the Asian Football Confederation as part of its ongoing fight against match-fixing in the region.
Asia's soccer governing body would distribute the pocket-sized booklet at all AFC competitions to educate stakeholders against the ills of match-fixing, the organisation said in a statement on its website.
Match-fixing is rampant in Asia with cases being reported across the continent, including recent scandals in Vietnam, Malaysia and Australia.
"In line with the AFC Integrity Action Plan, this booklet falls under the prevention measures (specifically, awareness raising and training) being adopted by the AFC," Sanjeevan Balasingam, the director of the body's integrity unit, said.
"It is among a number of mediums which will be used in an effort to enable targets of match manipulation to recognise, reject and report any attempts to fix the outcome of matches in AFC competitions."
Image: Sepp Blatter, FIFA president and Mohamed bin Hammam, ex-president of the Asian Football
Photographs: Stanley Chou/Getty Images