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Track cyclist Kluge takes Giro stage; Kruijswijk keeps lead

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CASSANO D’ADDA, Italy — German rider Roger Kluge used his track cycling experience to take the biggest victory of his road career, winning the 17th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday with a well-timed counterattack.

Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands had little trouble protecting his 3-minute lead over Esteban Chaves on the mostly flat 196-kilometer (122-mile) leg from Molveno to Cassano d’Adda.

Kluge responded to an attack from Filippo Pozzato in the final kilometer (mile) and easily overtook the Italian on the final straight to hold off the sprinting favorites.

Kluge had time to raise his right arm in celebration before he crossed the line in slightly more than 4 1/2 hours.

Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek-Segafredo finished second and Nikias Arndt of Team Giant-Alpecin crossed third, both with the same time as Kluge.

The 30-year-old Kluge won a silver medal in the points race at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also took silver in the omnium at this year’s track worlds and a gold in the omnium at the 2010 European Championships.

“I’ve been a pro for six years and this is the big victory I have been looking for,” Kluge said. “It wasn’t planned at all. I was working for Heinrich Haussler, closing the gap for him but I saw a possibility to get away. The finishing line was very near.”

The victory comes after Kluge’s IAM Cycling team announced it would fold after failing to find a second sponsor.

“It’s a strange feeling,” Kluge said. “Yesterday we were very disappointed to hear that our team is going to stop at the end of the year but we decided to stick together and it’s wonderful to come up with a victory to make it up for our disappointment.”

Stage 18 on Thursday is the race’s longest, a 244-kilometer (152-mile) leg from Muggio to Pinerolo that starts out flat but concludes with some steep hills and a dangerous descent.

“I knew this was my last easy day before some hard stages coming up,” Kruijswijk said. “(Tomorrow) is a stage with a hard and spectacular finale after a tricky downhill. I’m ready.”

There are also two more serious mountain stages Friday and Saturday before the 99th edition of the race ends Sunday in Turin.

Jungels wins Stage 15 of Giro; Dumoulin keeps pink jersey

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BERGAMO, Italy — Bob Jungels took a sprint ahead of several overall favorites to win the crash-filled 15th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday, while Tom Dumoulin had six seconds shaved off his overall lead in the final leg before the high mountains.

Jungels, of Luxembourg with the Quick Step team, surged past Nairo Quintana and Thibaut Pinot at the end of the 199-kilometer (124-mile) route from Valdengo to Bergamo, which contained two categorized climbs shortly before the finish and a shorter climb up cobblestones in Bergamo’s old city.

“It’s never easy to plan an attack like mine today in a stage like this,” Jungels said. “It was more of a classic than a Grand Tour stage. It’s what I needed to win a stage.”

Dumoulin’s lead was cut to 2:41 ahead of Quintana, with Pinot 3:21 back in third.

Not looking to take any unnecessary risks, Dumoulin rode more cautiously through the final kilometers and dropped slightly behind.

Quintana fell while negotiating a corner on a downhill stretch and had to change bikes.

Dumoulin ordered his teammates at the front to slow down and let Quintana catch up.

Tanel Kangert of Astana and Kenny Elissonde of Sky were involved in more serious crashes.

“I didn’t want to take time on Quintana when he crashed because it wasn’t the right way to do it,” Dumoulin said. “Sometimes the race goes on but this was a good moment to wait for him. My legs felt good today but I’m always looking forward to a rest day.”

Jungels wore the overall leader’s pink jersey for four days in the opening week and leads the best young rider classification. It was his first Grand Tour victory.

After the final rest day Monday, Stage 16 on Tuesday is considered the race’s toughest: a lengthy 222-kilometer (138-mile) leg from Rovetta to Bormio that features three strenuous climbs, including the legendary Mortirolo and Stelvio passes.

The 100th Giro concludes with an individual time trial in Milan next Sunday.

Huffman wins stage, Bennett overall at Tour of California

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PASADENA, Calif. (AP) Evan Huffman emerged from the breakaway for the second time this week to win the final stage of the Tour of California, and George Bennett finished safely in the chasing group to win the overall race.

Huffman and Rally Cycling teammate Rob Britton were the main agitators on the fourth stage to Santa Clarita, when they swept the top two spots on the podium. They were at it again Saturday as part of a five-man breakaway that survived to the finish in Pasadena.

Huffman was followed by David Lopez Garcia, Nicolas Edet, Lachlan Morton and Britton, while the chasing group that included all the overall contenders finished 22 seconds behind.

That allowed Bennett to hold off Rafal Majka and Andrew Talansky for the yellow jersey.