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Poels wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic

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LIEGE, Belgium (AP) Dutch rider Wout Poels attacked near the end and held off Swiss veteran Michael Albasini to win the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic on Sunday for the biggest win of his career.

With four riders left in the home stretch on slippery roads, the 28-year-old Poels pulled away with about 250 meters to go, and the Team SKY rider had enough of a lead to sit up in his saddle and raise his arms as he crossed the line.

Albasini finished ahead of Portuguese cyclist Rui Costa, with 2008 Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez of Spain crossing in fourth place.

Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde was looking to win the Ardennes double for a second year after his midweek victory in the Walloon Arrow, but finished out of contention in 15th place.

A group of eight riders led for most of the 248-kilometer (154-mile) course, which was shortened by 5 kilometers (3 miles) due to snow and heavy rain along the route.

But with about 30 kilometers to go, most of that group was caught, leaving only Frenchman Nicolas Edet and Alessandro De Marchi out in front.

In driving rain, they managed to reach the top of the Col de la Redoute together, but were both caught with some 25 kilometers remaining.

Valverde was among the favorites, having become the first rider to win the Walloon Arrow four times after racing to a third straight title Wednesday.

Valverde had his eyes set on a fourth win here on the eve of his 36th birthday. Inside the last 20 kilometers, he urged his teammates to accelerate but Valverde struggled near the back of the group when some 20 riders entered the last few kilometers and he finished 12 seconds behind Poels.

With one kilometer left, Albasini attacked first, with Costa, Sanchez and Poels just behind him.

But Poels timed his attack just right to win the grueling race in 6 hours, 24 minutes, 29 seconds.

Quintana keeps lead but Dumoulin remains pick to win Giro

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ASIAGO, Italy — Nairo Quintana held on to the pink jersey in the penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday but likely didn’t pick up enough seconds on his most dangerous rival, Tom Dumoulin, to claim overall victory.

Thibaut Pinot of France won the 20th stage in a sprint finish ahead of Ilnur Zakarin of Russia and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali.

Entering Sunday’s concluding time trial, Quintana leads Nibali by 39 seconds with Pinot third, 43 seconds back.

Dumoulin dropped from second to fourth, 53 seconds back, although he still remains the favorite considering his time trialing skills.

The 100th Giro ends on Sunday with a flat 29.3-kilometer (18-mile) individual time trial from Monza’s Formula One race track to Milan.

Dumoulin already dominated the race’s first time trial in Stage 10.

Quintana reclaims pink jersey with 2 stages to go in Giro

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PIANCAVALLO, Italy — Nairo Quintana reclaimed the pink jersey from Tom Dumoulin with two stages to go in the Giro d’Italia on Friday, setting up what could be a tense finale in Milan on Sunday.

Dumoulin couldn’t keep up with his main rivals in the final uphill finish of the three-week race and trails Quintana, the 2014 winner from Colombia, by 38 seconds.

Two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali is third overall, 43 seconds behind Quintana.

With Thibaut Pinot of France fourth overall, 53 seconds back, the top four are grouped within less than a minute.

“It’s pretty complicated. We have to adapt the strategy day-by-day,” Quintana said.

Spanish rider Mikel Landa won the 19th stage in a breakaway, finally tasting victory after two second-place finishes and one third-place result.

Landa required nearly five hours to complete the 191-kilometer (119-mile) route from San Candido to Piancavallo. He finished nearly two minutes ahead of Rui Costa, with Stage 17 winner Pierre Rolland crossing third.

On Thursday, Dumoulin criticized the tactics of Quintana and Nibali, saying they were merely racing to make him lose – remarks that earned a sharp rebuke from Nibali.

Before Friday’s stage, Dumoulin apologized to Nibali and the pair shook hands.

If anything, Dumoulin’s comments appeared to have motivated Quintana and Nibali, who temporarily dropped Dumoulin on a downhill section midway through Friday’s stage.

While the Dutchman caught up on the ensuing Sella Chianzutan climb, he didn’t have the legs to keep up on the 15.4-kilometer climb to Piancavallo, which began at an average gradient of nearly 10 percent.

“I had bad legs from the start and I made a rookie mistake at the beginning, sitting at the back of the bunch on the downhill,” Dumoulin said.

“In the final I tried to limit my losses and I did that very well. My team saved me a couple of times, so I have to thank them. Otherwise it would have been a much worse day. Bad legs today, but I hope they’ll be better tomorrow.”

Quintana wore pink for one day after winning Stage 9. Dumoulin then took control by dominating a time trial in Stage 10 and had led ever since.

Quintana has also finished on the Tour de France podium three times.

The penultimate stage on Saturday is the last mountainous leg, a 190-kilometer (118-mile) route from Pordenone to Asiago featuring two first-category climbs – a long 24-kilometer ascent to Monte Grappa and a shorter but steeper 14-kilometer rise to Foza.

The 100th Giro ends on Sunday with an individual time trial from Monza to Milan.

“Tomorrow there will be another important stage and then I’ll give it all in the time trial,” Quintana said.