Strong field threatens Froome's Tour-Vuelta double dream

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Chris Froome is aiming to become just the third rider to win the Tour-Vuelta double.

Chris Froome will face a star-studded field led by Colombian Nairo Quintana as he aims to become just the third rider to win the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana in the same year.

Indeed, defending champion Alberto Contador is the only one of the top five from this year’s Tour de France not to take part in the gruelling three-week tour around Spain as former Grand Tour winners Vincenzo Nibali and Quintana’s Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde also eye victory in Madrid come September 13.

A late surge by Quintana couldn’t prevent Froome from claiming the second Tour de France title of his career last month and the Briton will be backed by another strong Team Sky line-up as he attempts to win the Vuelta for the first time after runners-up finishes in 2012 and 2014.

Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil (1963) and Bernard Hinault (1978) are the only riders to have previously won both the Tour de France and the Vuelta in the same year.

“I have great memories from this race so I’m pleased to be back. I’ve had a good rest after the Tour and now I’m ready for my next challenge,” said Froome.

“It will certainly be a very competitive race given the strong field — which will be great for the fans to watch. The competition will be tough and this is bike racing so anything can happen, but we have an excellent team and we’re ready to get the race started.”

Movistar’s dual star strategy of including both Quintana and Valverde was criticised during the Tour despite both making the podium as the former’s relentless attacks on the final two stages couldn’t compensate for the time he lost in the first week.

Nibali also got stronger at the Tour progressed to finish fourth and went head-to-head with Froome on a couple of occasions with the Sky man declaring the Italian “unsportsmanlike” for an attack as Froome suffered a mechanical problem.

The 2014 Tour de France champions forms part of what team manager Giuseppe Martinelli has described as the “strongest ever” Astana team which also includes Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa, who finished second and third respectively in the Giro d’Italia earlier this year.

American Tejay Van Garderen could also figure in the fight for the general classification as he returns after having to withdraw from the Tour de France when lying third in the standings due to headaches.

The race gets underway with a team time trial from Puerto Banus to Marbella on Saturday.

Thereafter, there are eight mountain finishes to favour the better climbers, but a 39km individual time trial in Burgos in the final week could hold the key to victory.

The final stage will return to its traditional procession around the streets of Madrid after a final stage time trial in Santiago de Compostela last year to mark the 800th anniversary of St Francis of Assisi’s visit to the city.

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Five to watch at the World Athletics Championships

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High jumper Mutaz Barshim (c) will be one of the medal hopes for the MENA region.

Ahead of the World Athletics Championships which kicks off in Beijing on Saturday, here's five athletes expected to shine.  

Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (JPN)

Sani Brown, born in Fukuoka in Japan to a Japanese mother and Ghanaian father, promises to take the sprinting world by storm. The now Tokyo resident, just 16, was one of the star performers at last month's world youth championships in Cali, Colombia, winning an impressive sprint double. In winning, he clocked championship records of 10.28sec in the 100m and 20.34sec in the 200m, the latter breaking the record previously set by one Usain Bolt. That time also confirmed him as a member of the Japanese team in Beijing, where he will be the youngest athlete ever to compete in the 200m in the history of the world champs. He is also down for the 4x100m relay. 

Zharnel Hughes (GBR)

The British team has been criticised for taking in a number of "plastic Brits", but in Anguillan-born recruit Hughes, they might have unveiled a promising talent. The 20-year-old was eligible for Britain because the Caribbean island of Anguilla is a British Overseas Territories. He now trains in Jamaica with Usain Bolt and the step-up in intensity has paid dividends. Hughes, standing a towering 1.92m tall, blasted to a life-time best of 20.05sec in the 200m at the London Diamond League meet last month and heads the season standings in the discipline.

Mutaz Essa Barshim (QAT)

Could this be the moment for the 24-year-old Doha-born Barshim to confirm his undoubted talent? The Qatari won bronze at the London Olympics before going on to claim silver at the Moscow worlds a year later and the world indoor gold in Sopot last season. In 2014, the 6ft 2in (1.89 metre) jumper also set his outdoor best of 2.43m, just 2cm short of Cuban Javier Sotomayor's world record. With the likes of Ukraine's reigning world high jump champion Bohdan Bondarenko, Russian Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov, Canadian Derek Drouin, American Erik Kynard and Chinese hope Guowei Zhang also pushing hard, Barshim has the opportunity to step up and supplant the last Qatari to shine on the world stage, Saif Saaed Shaheen, formely known as Kenyan Stephen Cherono.

Pedro Pablo Pichardo (CUB)

Much like Barshim, Pichardo is bidding to not only confirm his status as the world's best but also break Jonathan Edwards' long-standing world triple jump record. The 22-year-old Cuban claimed silver in the Moscow worlds two years ago and a bronze at the Sopot world indoors, but this season he has jumped out to 18.08m, taking him to third in the all-time list. American Christian Taylor, the reigning Olympic champion and 2011 world champion, has also gone beyond the mythical 18-metre mark in 2015, and he and Pichardo are sure to push themselves to the limit in a much-anticipated battle for gold and a tilt at Edwards' world record mark of 18.29m.

Genzebe Dibaba (ETH)

The 24-year-old Dibaba has hit the headlines consistently over the last couple of seasons. Most recently, she set last month's Lausanne Diamond League meet alight when she scorched to a new world record in the 1500m, shattering the previous best that belonged to one Yunxia Qu of China, set in Beijing in 1993 under the guidance of controversial coach Ma Junren. For Dibaba, the two-time world indoor champion over the distance, the record was, remarkably, her fourth currently held, but first outdoors. She also holds the world records for the indoor 1500, 3000 and 5000m events. In Beijing she will also attack the 5000m, the world record for which is held by none other than her elder sister Tirunesh.

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VIDEO: Head down to Beach Tennis - Dubai

Scott 20/08/2015
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Beach Tennis is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and you can play it at Jumeriah Beach Residence, Dubai. Sport360 went down to speak to the manager, find out about the rules and see if it's really as fun as we imagined. We weren't disappointed.









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