Press Association Team Sky’s Nicolas Roche claimed victory on the 18th stage of the Vuelta a Espana as T om Dumoulin kept hold of the leader’s red jersey for Team Giant-Alpecin. There was no change at the top of the general classification as Holland’s Dumoulin – Wednesday’s winner – maintained his hold at the summit after coming home 15th in Riaza. He has a three-seconds lead over Astana’s Fabio Aru. With no summit finishes remaining until Sunday’s concluding stage to Madrid, it remains to be seen if Aru of Italy can wrestle the red jersey from Dumoulin. A fascinating conclusion to the race is in prospect as Dumoulin seeks a momentous moment for Dutch cycling. It is 35 years since a Dutchman won a Grand Tour, when Joop Zoetemelk won the 1980 Tour de France. He also won the 1979 Vuelta. Roche was delighted hopes of a stage victory “finally worked out” as he sealed the triumph in Riaza. He told Eurosport: “There was a rider 20 seconds behind and when we saw that I just said ‘let’s just ride to the finish and we’ll do a mano a mano sprint’. It was actually really good and we co-operated well since the 15km to go sign. I think that was our only chance. “Coming into the sprint I wanted to lead it out. Haimar is someone who has got a lot of experience and I’ve lost a few sprints against him in the past, in (Clasica) San Sebastian for example. “I didn’t want to have a slow-start sprint, I wanted to have a really high speed one. “I thought I’d try and manage my own pace. I smiled because I was happy that it worked. I thought ‘yes, for once I didn’t mess up’. “I’ve had a few second and third places and I’ve always lacked that little small bit at the finish. Today it finally worked out.” The 31-year-old Irishman, who last won a Grant Tour stage win during the 2013 race in Spain, won Thursday’s 204-kilometre route from Roa to Riaza in a sprint finish to hand Team Sky their first victory of the Tour. Roche and Haimar Zubeldia ( Trek Factory Racing ) broke away from the leading group with the former just edging out the Basque in a time of five hours, three minutes and 59 seconds as Portugal’s Jose Goncalves (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) crossed the line 18 seconds further back in third.
Blake wants to cruise in an RV across Australia. Lachlan thinks the idea is dreadful. Lachlan loves listening to Taylor Swift. Blake thinks she’s awful. The Edwards brothers are two of USC’s top aquatic athletes. But though they share a love for the sport and for each other, they couldn’t be more different.Blake is a 23-year-old junior transfer from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Lachlan is a 20-year-old sophomore who was recruited by USC straight out of high school and spent last year playing for the Trojans.The two have spent many years playing water polo together. They grew up by the pool, as their mother and father represented Australia in swimming and water polo, respectively.Blake started playing water polo as a 12 year old, when his older brothers began their careers, and Lachlan started at the same time as an 8-year-old. The two are the third and fifth brothers in a family of aquatic athletes.Five of the brothers started for the same Melbourne Collegians club team in what was a season unlike anything most athletes or siblings could ever hope to experience.“For me, it was one of my most memorable water polo experiences — that camaraderie that we developed from knowing each other,” Blake said. “It was just a really rewarding experience to be out there and to share something with your brothers.”Both brothers are members of the Australian National Team, so they have been able to travel to many places in Asia and Eastern Europe. However, one place water polo had never taken the Edwards’ before USC was the United States.Their perception of America was taken straight from Hollywood. Blake confessed he loved watching the TV show The O.C.“My dream is to have a girl on the back of my bike, riding on the boardwalk,” he said.Not only are the two countries’ cultures different, but both brothers also acknowledged that the transition from Australian universities was very challenging because the student body is much more disengaged and the learning more theoretical on their home continent.“I find that the way it’s set up here with everyone on campus sets up more opportunities to network and meet people,” Blake said. “The learning is much more engaging and enjoyable.”Though the brothers are good at coexisting in the pool, they aren’t so used to being forced to do so outside of it. Currently, Blake and Lachlan are sharing a room, something they haven’t had to do since before they were five.“We fought a lot more back home. Usually he is the grumpiest man back home, and I’m always annoying him … now that we’re in the same room, he hasn’t really got a choice,” Blake said. “We’re still in the honeymoon stage.”Even the honeymoon stage of a relationship has its tense points, though. Blake described a wrong turn he made in L.A. that gave him an eye-opening look at some of the more interesting parts of Los Angeles. Lachlan shook his head and expressed how happy he was that he missed out on that quasi-adventure.And though the brothers share a room, they do not share a taste in music.“You listen to all crap, like all ’80s stuff,” Lachlan said to Blake. “There’s a time and a place for that, and he cannot pick when that should be played.”Blake responded disapprovingly by telling his brother that he listens to a lot of teenage girl music.“It’s the best stuff,” Lachlan replied.When their time at USC comes to a close and the brothers are back down under, both would like to spend time seeing more of Australia, however Blake’s desired surfing road trip in an RV isn’t for everyone.“That’s where we’re the opposite,” Lachlan said. “It’d be good to see that stuff, but a year in a truck with him, I don’t know about that.”In the meantime, the brothers said their biggest goal is to win a national championship for USC, something they said their connection might help them to do.“I seem to find him a lot easier,” Blake said. “I don’t know if it’s because of the size of him but that’s the way it’s always happened. I understand him and his abilities a lot more, and he understands mine as well.”The brothers will continue their water polo career together, both in and out of the pool. They will look to lead USC to another national title, something they say shouldn’t be too hard.“There’s no one closer than your family, so when I’m successful and able to share it with him, it’s something I can’t describe,” Lachlan said. “Seeing him be successful and play well, you get the same feeling if it was you doing it.”
Defense wins championships.We all know that saying. I think it’s probably been plastered onto so many high school football shirts and motivational posters that anyone who’s ever watched or played or even been around sports knows it. Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.No matter what sport, I’ve always loved defense, perhaps even more than offense. When I played basketball and soccer, there was something satisfying about squaring up an opponent and shutting down any move they tried to make past you. When I watch football and basketball, I live for the hard hits and the showboat blocks.That might be because of where I’m from. Kansas City is known across the board for teams that specialize in defense — Sporting KC with its indomitable home field atmosphere, the Chiefs with their smash mouth defensive line and Alex Gordon and the Royals and their high-flying antics in the outfield. It’s something the teams and the city takes pride in. And when defense is great, it’s a thing of beauty to watch.Last Saturday, I don’t think I could use the word “beautiful” to describe most of the USC defense. There were, of course, the highlights of the fourth quarter — that Porter Gustin sack, the Marvel Tell interception — but the game left a bitter taste in the mouths of most fans despite the 49-31 final score.Entering this season, there has been perhaps too much hype surrounding this USC football team. Yet most of it focused on phenom quarterback Sam Darnold, his offense and his inevitable quest to collect a Pac-12 championship, a national championship and a Heisman trophy in one fell swoop. There was a slight rumble in the Coliseum when Darnold took the field for the first time on Saturday, a thrum of expectation that paid off in the opening touchdown drive and then quickly dissipated throughout the frustrating first half. And despite receiving very little of the offseason spotlight, the same expectation still stood for the defense as it took the field.What unfolded over the first three quarters of the Western Michigan game was, in a word, disappointing. The defensive line found no room to pressure the quarterback, while the secondary blew coverage and the linebackers let running backs slip away with sloppy arm tackles. The offense struggled to get off the ground, but they also had no safety net. The defense allowed 263 yards on the ground alone, falling to 113th out of 125 teams in the FBS after the poor outing. The hits weren’t hard and the stops weren’t impressive. For the first time, I felt that the best way to describe the USC defense was “soft.”There are a lot of excuses that could be made for the defense. Western Michigan was bringing a new head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback to the Coliseum, and there was little to no film available to prepare the defense. Junior linebacker Cam Smith, who typically leadsin-game adjustments for the Trojans, was confined to the locker room for the first half due to a suspension carried over from the Rose Bowl, leaving the young defense to adjust themselves without one of their captains. For all those reasons, it makes sense that team came out to a slow start. But there’s a difference between a slow start and allowing almost 300 yards rushing. Sloppy tackles and lack of energy couldn’t be blamed on a lack of film or a sidelined leader or even the heat. Smith was harsh in his review of the team, saying it had nothing to do with anything except lack of concentration.“Bad,” he said impatiently to the reporter scrum after the game. “It was really bad.”Something has to change. The Trojans squeaked out of their season opener with a victory, but the same performance can’t be repeated next Saturday against Stanford. The Cardinal will bring everything that Western Michigan did — scrappy defense, a hard-nosed run game and balanced aerial attack — with the added benefit of Pac-12 talent. It’s too early to panic, and first games are historically poor barometers for the future success of football teams. (Just ask any fan who stuck through from the Alabama game to the Rose Bowl last year, if you don’t believe me.) But while many might be ready to sound the alarm while poring over Darnold’s Heisman chances, I’m much more concerned with the defense.Defense wins championships. It’s cliché. It’s also true. And as USC continues to grind through a tough Pac-12 and non-conference schedule — all without a bye week — it will be the defense, and not the offense, that will be tested the most.If the Trojans are going to live up to the hype this year, fans will have to hope that a different defense shows up to the Coliseum this Saturday.Julia Poe is a junior studying print and digital journalism. She is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, Poe’s Perspective, runs Wednesdays.