Saudi Tour cycling event rebranded as AlUla Tour for 2024 return

The Saudi Tour cycling event has been rebranded as the AlUla Tour for its return in early 2024, it was announced on Monday. (Supplied)
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The Saudi Tour cycling event has been rebranded as the AlUla Tour for its return in early 2024, it was announced on Monday. (Supplied)
The Saudi Tour cycling event has been rebranded as the AlUla Tour for its return in early 2024, it was announced on Monday. (Supplied)
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The Saudi Tour cycling event has been rebranded as the AlUla Tour for its return in early 2024, it was announced on Monday. (Supplied)
The Saudi Tour cycling event has been rebranded as the AlUla Tour for its return in early 2024, it was announced on Monday. (Supplied)
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The Saudi Tour cycling event has been rebranded as the AlUla Tour for its return in early 2024, it was announced on Monday. (Supplied)
The Saudi Tour cycling event has been rebranded as the AlUla Tour for its return in early 2024, it was announced on Monday. (Supplied)
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The Saudi Tour cycling event has been rebranded as the AlUla Tour for its return in early 2024, it was announced on Monday. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 November 2023
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Saudi Tour cycling event rebranded as AlUla Tour for 2024 return

Saudi Tour cycling event rebranded as AlUla Tour for 2024 return

LONDON: The Saudi Tour cycling event has been rebranded as the AlUla Tour for its return in early 2024, it was announced on Monday.

It will be organized by the Ministry of Sport and the Royal Commission for AlUla, in cooperation with the Saudi Cycling Federation and the International Cycling Union.

The biggest cycling competition in Saudi Arabia is now in its fourth year and will be run from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3, welcoming 119 cyclists from 17 teams, including from the UCI World Tour and Continental Tour.

The confirmed lineup of teams, riders and stages will be announced at the end of this year.

The five-stage event is part of the UCI Asia Tour and a category 2.1 event.

Abdullah bin Ali Al-Wathlan, chairman of the Saudi Cycling Federation and vice chairman of the Arab Cycling Federation, said: “The AlUla Tour has emerged as a major local, regional and international event in recent years. We look forward to welcoming the sport’s best cyclists in one of the sport’s most unique locations, showcased to the world.

“The AlUla Tour, alongside our global cycling partners, is creating a legacy in this country with more and more people getting access to a sustainable sport that is inspiring people to move, be active and healthy.”

The Royal Commission for AlUla has announced two mass participation rides alongside the AlUla Tour for juniors and the wider public.

The RCU has also created environmentally friendly initiatives through local bike tracks, hubs, desert biking tours, mountain biking options and electric bikes at Hegra.

Phillip Jones, RCU’s chief tourism officer, said: “The new AlUla Tour promises to take cycling to another level this year.

“Welcoming the sport’s elite talent and teams on the UCI Asia Tour across five challenging stages showcases the best of AlUla as a sporting destination. We are just about to open our brand new 45 km bike track for road cyclists, which is set to be one of most stunning dedicated cycling routes in the world.

“We really believe AlUla has the potential to become the cycling capital of Saudi Arabia as we create more opportunities for people to watch, be inspired and ride with one of the country’s fastest growing sports.”

The AlUla Tour is one of the sports events on this season’s AlUla Moments calendar that also includes the AlUla Trail Race (Jan. 11-12); Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo (Jan. 17-20); and February’s Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup.


Doncic knows he’s learning in first NBA Finals, but Mavs star isn’t conceding to Celtics

Doncic knows he’s learning in first NBA Finals, but Mavs star isn’t conceding to Celtics
Updated 23 sec ago
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Doncic knows he’s learning in first NBA Finals, but Mavs star isn’t conceding to Celtics

Doncic knows he’s learning in first NBA Finals, but Mavs star isn’t conceding to Celtics
  • A rough first finals for the 25-year-old superstar, no doubt — an injury-filled postseason punctuated by fouling out for the first time in his playoff career
  • Doncic: They’ve still got to win one more game. Like I said, we’re going to believe until the end

DALLAS: Luka Doncic winced ever so slightly as he stepped onto the stage to address reporters a day after his Dallas Mavericks fell behind Boston 3-0 in the NBA Finals.

A rough first finals for the 25-year-old superstar, no doubt — an injury-filled postseason punctuated by fouling out for the first time in his playoff career, thanks to a four-foul fourth quarter in a 106-99 loss to the Celtics in Game 3.

Near the end of six seasons filled with comparisons to LeBron James, here’s another for Doncic. Just like the player he idolized as a teenager, Doncic is on the verge of having to weather failure on basketball’s biggest stage before getting more chances to experience the ultimate success.

“I didn’t really study the first finals of some people,” Doncic said Thursday, the eve of Game 4 in Dallas with the Celtics on the verge of an 18th championship, which would break a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most in the NBA.

Doncic did remember the first Eastern Conference finals — two, actually — for Michael Jordan in Chicago a generation ago.

“Obviously, there’s the story of MJ against Detroit,” the five-time All-Star said. “That was a big thing. I think he just learned from it. You’ve got to go through lows first to go on top. I think that’s great experience.”

After finally breaking through against the Pistons, Jordan won the title in his first trip to the NBA Finals in 1991, the start of a 6-0 run in the title series over an eight-season span.

Doncic is at risk of the same fate in his first finals as James, who was swept with Cleveland against San Antonio in 2007. James lost again with Miami — against Dallas, no less — in 2011 before winning back-to-back titles with the Heat.

Asked if he thought his game could improve in the offseason, Doncic said, “Oh, definitely, a lot of holes,” before reiterating he would learn plenty from his first finals. Then he paused.

“But we’re not in the offseason yet,” Doncic said. “They’ve still got to win one more game. Like I said, we’re going to believe until the end.”

The end is near for Dallas because Doncic didn’t get enough help from co-star Kyrie Irving in the first two games, or from his supporting cast in any of the first three.

Still, the Slovenian sensation has had his own difficulties, particularly in Game 3. The Celtics relentlessly targeted Doncic’s defense, which has been solid to good overall in these playoffs.

The four fouls came so quickly in the fourth quarter, his sixth forced a challenge that Dallas lost with 4:12 remaining. The Mavs were on a 20-2 run when Doncic was disqualified, and scored again to get within a point before Boston held on to avoid blowing a 21-point lead with 11 minutes remaining.

With a long history of complaining to officials, Doncic made a point earlier in the playoffs to go back to having fun. He’s had trouble sustaining it, and didn’t have kind words for the refs after fouling out in regulation for the first time in his career.

“I just really want to win,” Doncic said. “Sometimes I don’t show it the right way, but at the end of the day, I really want to win. I’ve got to do a better job showing it a different way.”

Doncic is 3 for 3 on miserable fourth quarters in the finals, with more turnovers (four) than baskets (three) and zero 3-pointers. Before the rare foul-out (the third of Doncic’s career), he sat most of the fourth with the Celtics comfortably in front in Game 1.

Dallas’ best closer hasn’t been closing in this series, and added a chest contusion to a postseason litany of ailments that included a sprained right knee and a sore left ankle.

Although the chest injury — sustained in Game 1 — was the only one on the latest injury report, it’s significant enough that Doncic confirmed to ESPN the network’s report that he had been taking a pain-killing injection by acknowledging he would probably have another one before Game 4.

“My message to him is he’s not alone in this,” said Irving, who bounced back from a sluggish offensive start to the series with 35 points in Game 3. “He’s played as best as he can despite the circumstances, just injuries and stuff. He’s been giving it his all. It’s not all on him.”

The spotlight in still on him, just as it was for Jordan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and James before the first of his four titles nearly 20 years ago.

“I think the history is there for us to learn from, when you look at great players and the struggles,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “But the great ones, they use that going into the next season or the next couple seasons to try to get back there because now they understand experience is a big thing.”

Doncic won’t do that until this season is officially over.


Tom Brady enshrined into Patriots Hall of Fame during star-studded night

Tom Brady enshrined into Patriots Hall of Fame during star-studded night
Updated 14 June 2024
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Tom Brady enshrined into Patriots Hall of Fame during star-studded night

Tom Brady enshrined into Patriots Hall of Fame during star-studded night
  • Team owner Robert Kraft brought Brady to tears when he announced that his No. 12 would never be worn by another Patriots player
  • In a night that felt like a Patriots family reunion, the biggest moment was reserved before Brady’s speech when he was reunited with former Patriots coach Bill Belichick

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.: Tom Brady brought the New England Patriots endless memories and six Super Bowl trophies during his two-decade run with the team.

The Patriots made sure his induction into the franchise’s Hall of Fame was a celebration unlike it had ever thrown before.

Dozens of Brady’s former teammates and coaches, spanning multiple eras of Patriots history joined thousands of fans and celebrities including Jay-Z and Bon Jovi on Wednesday night to salute Brady as the 35th person to be enshrined into the team’s hall.

“Patriots nation, it’s good to be home,” Brady said.

Before Brady spoke, team owner Robert Kraft brought Brady to tears when he announced that his No. 12 would never be worn by another Patriots player.

“The No. 12 is now officially retired,” Kraft said.

Kraft also announced that a 12-foot bronze statue of Brady was being commissioned and it would be placed outside the Patriots Hall of Fame later this year.

In a night that felt like a Patriots family reunion, the biggest moment was reserved before Brady’s speech when he was reunited with former Patriots coach Bill Belichick. It included an extended ovation for Belichick, who parted ways with the team after the 2023 season.

“It was a tremendous honor for me to draft Tom and coach Tom for 20 years,” Belichick told the crowd. “Everything he brought to the team, it was really an honor for me to be involved with that.”

Brady weighed in on the never-ending debate about whether he or Belichick was most responsible for Patriots success during their time together.

“It wasn’t me. It wasn’t you. It was us,” Brady said. “Let me make it clear. There is no other coach I’d rather play for than Bill Belichick.”

The evening began with a red carpet featuring a who’s who of Brady’s 20 seasons with the Patriots, including Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Randy Moss, Vince Wilfork, Drew Bledsoe and Rob Gronkowski, among others. It also included Brady’s parents, Tom Sr. and Galynn Brady.

The official ceremony inside Gillette Stadium was kicked off by a smoke-filled performance by rapper Jay-Z of his 2003 “Public Service Announcement,” which Brady used as entrance music when he’d jogged onto the field to warmup before games.

On this night, Brady emerged from near the stage at the end of Jay-Z’s performance, walking through the section reserved for the night’s special guests before taking a seat on stage himself.

There he watched video tributes from his competitors over the years, including Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, Charles Woodson and Jason Taylor. There were also video appearances by former New York Giants Michael Strahan and Eli Manning, who were booed by fans who haven’t forgotten how the Giants spoiled the Patriots’ bid for a perfect season with their upset in the 2007 Super Bowl. They defeated Brady and company again in the 2011 Super Bowl.

Other video cameos included some of Boston’s most celebrated celebrities, such as Red Sox great David Ortiz and Matt Damon.

The No. 199 pick in the 2000 draft, Brady inherited the starting job in his second season in New England when Bledsoe, the former No. 1 overall pick, was injured and led the Patriots to a Super Bowl championship that year. He won five more titles over the next two decades.

Back with Brady again, Bledsoe joked that Brady didn’t follow the No. 1 rule as his backup.

“You were the worst backup quarterback in the history of the NFL,” Bledsoe said. “You never learned that when I got healthy, that you were supposed to go sit back down.”

There were emotional moments. Like when some of Brady’s top playmakers — Moss, Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Wes Welker joined Brady on stage.

Moss was moved to tears as the crowd showered him a two-minute ovation. Moss recalled how when he arrived in New England in 2007 he knew he had to be close to Brady.

“Put my locker beside Tom Brady’s and the rest will take care of itself,” Moss said.

There were also surprise in-person guests, like Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning participating in a sit down discussion with Brady and the night’s host Mike Tirico to discuss the quarterbacks’ on-field clashes over the years.

Manning revealed how he never counted the Patriots out when his teams faced Brady, especially when Brady had the ball with a chance to win late in games.

“I was praying on the sidelines,” Manning said. “I never pray on the sidelines.”

Brady paid Manning compliments as well, calling him one of his best friends. He also noted how he’d followed Manning’s career as a young quarterback, dating back to high school.

“There’s nobody out there like Peyton Manning right now,” Brady said.

Manning even offered some of his textbook quips, drawing cheers from what was often a hostile New England crowd when he lamented, “They like me here because I always lost here.”

In front of a crowd spilling with his No. 12 jersey, Brady said his family and the Patriots will be forever intertwined.

“I feel like we’re still the family that’s trying to love each other,” Brady said. “We’re adopted New Englanders.”

At one point Brady ran down the list of towns he’d lived in around New England during his time with the Patriots, from Franklin to Quincy to Chestnut Hill to Brookline.

Brady concluded his speech welling with tears.

“I am Tom Brady. And I am a Patriot,” he said.


US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup

US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup
Updated 14 June 2024
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US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup

US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup
  • Berhalter: Copa America is essential to the growth of this group, and I believe this is a very important tournament for us as a team
  • This will be the fifth Copa America appearance for the US, who were eliminated in the group stage in 1993 and 2007, and finished fourth in 1995 and 2016

NEW YORK: In a region that provides few tests, the US views the Copa America as its last significant challenge ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

“A World Cup on home soil is the biggest thing that you know we’ll probably do in our career,” star attacker Christian Pulisic said. “It’s a special time for this sport in America.”

Eighteen players from the 2022 World Cup roster were in training camp ahead of the tournament. The US open against Bolivia on June 23 at Arlington, Texas, play Panama four days later at Atlanta and close the group stage vs. Uruguay on July 1 at Kansas City, Missouri.

The US could meet Brazil in the quarterfinals. But players and staff view this as another step toward June 12, 2026, when the Americans play their World Cup opener at Inglewood, California.

“Copa America is essential to the growth of this group, and I believe this is a very important tournament for us as a team. This is the last major tournament before the World Cup. We’ll have Gold Cup, but the caliber of teams does not match Copa America,” coach Gregg Berhalter said. “It is a building block in which to to go into the World Cup confident.”

Berhalter was let go when his contract expired at the end of 2022 in the messy fallout of a feud with the Reyna family, then brought back and returned behind the bench last September. His core is the same as during the 2022 World Cup, where the US lost to the Netherlands 3-1 in the round of 16.

Pulisic, 25, comes into the tournament following his best season. He scored 12 Serie A goals in his first season with AC Milan plus one in the Champions League and two in the Europa League. His equalizer gave the Americans a 1-1 draw against Brazil Tuesday night in their last pre-tournament warmup, his 29th international goal in 68 appearances.

“He’s had some unfortunate injuries along his path and he’s been at some places where maybe he hasn’t gotten the best look and wasn’t really the number one option, but I think everyone in this country knows how talented he is,” said American forward Hajji Wright, Pulisic’s teammate now and at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup. “He’s really finding his goal-scoring form. He’s able to affect the game by actually scoring and contributing in front of the goal. And that’s something he always used to do when we were children.”

Tyler Adams, the US World Cup captain and another member of that 2015 team, is regaining fitness following a frustrating 15 months. A 25-year-old defensive midfielder, Adams played just one club match from March 2023 until this past March 13 because of a torn right hamstring that needed surgery. After returning to play two matches for Bournemouth in March, the midfielder was limited by back spasms to one game over the rest of the season, an 11-minute appearance on May 11. He entered the June 12 friendly against Brazil in the 76th minute.

Right back Sergiño Dest will miss the tournament because of a torn ACL, opening the spot for 21-year-old Joe Scally. Chris Richards appears to have gained a starting spot in central defense alongside Tim Ream on a back line that has Antonee Robinson on the left.

Goalkeeper Matt Turner is a cause for concern. He lost the starting job at Nottingham Forest this season after poor play and was at fault for some of the goals in the 5-1 loss to Colombia and this week’s game against Brazil.

“He’s getting his rhythm. He’s going to be fine come tournament time,” Berhalter said. “You can see that he didn’t have a regular slate of games and it’s going to take him a little bit to get into it.”

This will be the fifth Copa America appearance for the US, who were eliminated in the group stage in 1993 and 2007, and finished fourth in 1995 and 2016.

“What you’re seeing on the pitch is now we’re clicking even more than ever,” midfielder Brenden Aaronson said, “and I think it’s just going to continue to get better and better.”


Chimaev out of UFC fight against Whittaker in Saudi Arabia, Aliskerov steps in

Chimaev out of UFC fight against Whittaker in Saudi Arabia, Aliskerov steps in
Updated 14 June 2024
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Chimaev out of UFC fight against Whittaker in Saudi Arabia, Aliskerov steps in

Chimaev out of UFC fight against Whittaker in Saudi Arabia, Aliskerov steps in
  • Ikram Aliskerov is on a seven-game winning streak
  • Chimaev has headed home to recover

RIYADH: Khamzat Chimaev is out of the first ever Ultimate Fighting Championship event in Saudi Arabia due to illness, according to the head of the championship.

Chimaev was due to fight Robert Whittaker on June 22 in the middleweight division, but Dana White, CEO and President of the UFC, said the Russian has been “violently ill,” prompting a change to the main event.

Chimaev’s team has not commented on the nature of the illness afflicting the undefeated fighter, with White only saying he had returned home to recover.

Ikram Aliskerov, who is on a seven-game winning streak, will step in to face Whittaker in Riyadh. Aliskerov’s only loss in his 16 bouts came against Chimaev.

“This dude is a legit contender in only his third UFC fight,” said White about Aliskerov, as he announced the change.

“If he gets a knockout against Robert Whittaker, he’ll go into a tie for the longest active UFC knockout streak.”

Aliskerov, who was pulled from Saturday’s UFC event in Las Vegas, said: “Next fight is dream come true and we are ready for any challenges.”

Talking up the courage of Whittaker, White said: “We offered everybody in the division this fight, nobody would take it except Whittaker.”

Turki Alalshikh, the head of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority and the man behind bringing the UFC to the Kingdom, confirmed the change to the main card and wished Chimaev a speedy recovery.


McIlroy fires bogey-free 65 to share US Open lead with Cantlay

McIlroy fires bogey-free 65 to share US Open lead with Cantlay
Updated 14 June 2024
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McIlroy fires bogey-free 65 to share US Open lead with Cantlay

McIlroy fires bogey-free 65 to share US Open lead with Cantlay
  • “I’m delighted with the start,” McIlroy said

PINEHURST, US: Rory McIlroy sank a birdie putt from just inside 20 feet at the 18th hole to finish a five-under-par 65 first round and match Patrick Cantlay for the lead at the US Open on Thursday.
World number three McIlroy, chasing his first major victory since the 2014 PGA Championship, delivered a bogey-free round at Pinehurst, defying its dome-shaped greens, sandy waste areas and wiregrass.
“I’m delighted with the start,” McIlroy said.
“As the week goes on the golf course is going to get a bit faster and a bit firey, but right now, there’s opportunities out there and thankfully I was able to take advantage of them.
“I think more so this championship than the others, getting off to a good start is really important to try to keep yourself up there. Because you need to give yourself as much of a cushion as possible knowing what’s lurking around the corner.”
America’s ninth-ranked Cantlay, a back-nine starter, birdied three of his last five holes for an early 65 and with McIlroy took a one-stroke lead over Sweden’s sixth-ranked Ludvig Aberg, Masters runner-up in his major debut, with France’s Matthieu Pavon and American Bryson DeChambeau sharing fourth on 67.
“It’s the US Open. It’s supposed to be hard,” Aberg said. “That’s what we’re doing here.”
McIlroy, a 30-year-old from Northern Ireland, sank a seven-foot birdie putt at the fourth hole then chipped in brilliantly from just off the green for a birdie at the par-5 fifth.
The four-time major winner added a birdie putt from just inside seven feet at the par-5 10th then birdied two of the last three holes, sinking an 11-footer at the par-4 16th and then his tension-packed putt at 18.
“I think the one thing we got a little lucky with today was the cloud cover, so the golf course didn’t get as fiery as I expected it to get this afternoon,” McIlroy said.
“The nice thing is to go out there and take advantage of the conditions and get back out in the morning and try to keep the momentum going.”
McIlroy was second in last year’s US Open, his fifth top-10 effort in a row at the US Open with each better than the last.
An afternoon feature group with the world’s three top players was dominated by McIlroy, with world number one Scottie Scheffler, the Masters champion, firing a 71 and second-ranked Xander Schauffele, who won last month’s PGA Championship, on 70.
Scheffler has five PGA Tour wins this year, the most by any player at this stage since Tom Watson in 1980.
Schauffele snapped a two-year win drought last month with his first major triumph.
Cantlay, seeking his first major triumph, and McIlroy matched the low US Open rounds at Pinehurst, two 65s by Martin Kaymer on his way to victory in 2014.
“Played pretty solid most of the way,” Cantlay said. “The golf course played pretty difficult. But drove it well. Lot of balls on the fairways. Left the ball in the right spots, for the most part.”
Cantlay, the 2021 PGA Tour playoff champion, is a contender for a US berth at the Paris Olympics but must finish no worse than second this week to have a chance.
Aberg sank a six-foot birdie putt at the par-3 ninth to finish on 66 with six birdies and two bogeys.
“Very nice round of golf,” Aberg said. “Not a lot to complain about.”
DeChambeau, last month’s PGA Championship runner-up and the 2020 US Open champion, made a three-foot birdie putt at 13, holed out for birdie from 52 feet at 18 and birdied the fifth after putting his tee shot way right into trees.
Pavon, ranked 24th, soared with eagles at the par-5 fifth on an 18-foot putt and on a 27-foot putt at the par-5 10th hole.
“I made my four best swings of the day on the par-5s and dropped two putts,” Pavon said. “It gave me a little bit of freedom.”
Five-time major winner Brooks Koepka and seventh-ranked Collin Morikawa, a two-time major winner, were among those on 70.
Tiger Woods, a 15-time major winner, struggled to a 74. He had five bogeys in a seven-hole stretch starting at the 16th after teeing off on the back nine.