Crafty teamwork helps Trentin win longest Giro stage

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PINEROLO, Italy — Matteo Trentin used a late counterattack and some crafty teamwork to win the longest stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday, while Steven Kruijswijk held on to a comfortable overall lead with only two challenging legs to go.

Cannondale’s Moreno Moser and Trentin’s Etixx Quick-Step teammate Gianluca Brambilla were in the lead approaching the finish line when Trentin bridged the gap from a chasing group. Brambilla was told by radio that Trentin was coming while Moser wasn’t aware, allowing Trentin to burst past and claim his third victory in a Grand Tour.

“It was a win built with teamwork,” said Trentin, who also won two stages in the Tour de France, in 2013 and 2014, plus the Paris-Tours single-day classic last year. “I was sure that sooner or later a stage for me would come.”

Moser finished second and Brambilla crossed third, both with the same time as Trentin — nearly 5 1/2 hours. All three Italians were part of an early breakaway.

The main pack with Kruijswijk and the other leaders finished more than 13 minutes behind in the 18th stage, a 244-kilometer (152-mile) leg from Muggio to Pinerolo.

The route started out flat but concluded with some steep hills and a dangerous descent before flattening out again shortly before the finish.

With his open jersey revealing his bare chest, Trentin had time to celebrate as he coasted over the line.

“I tried to play it cool and keep Moser a little bit tired to keep him in the front,” Brambilla said. “I saw a blue jersey coming around so I stopped helping Moser, I just stayed in the wheel and we managed to get the victory. I’m really happy for Matteo.”

It was the fourth victory for the Etixx team after Marcel Kittel won the opening two sprints and Brambilla took Stage 8. Kittel and Brambilla also wore the overall leader’s pink jersey briefly.

Kruijswijk leads Esteban Chaves by 3 minutes, with Alejandro Valverde 3:23 behind in third.

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

Stage 19 Friday features the Colle dell’Agnello pass, the highest point of the race at an altitude of 2,744 meters (9,000 feet). Organizers cleared meters (yards) of snow off the pass earlier this week.

“I’m getting closer every day to winning the Giro,” Kruijswijk said. “Tomorrow it looks like a good stage for me. I like long climbs. Maybe I can do something. After finishing second three times, I’d like a stage win as well but firstly I’ll defend the Maglia Rosa (pink jersey).”

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.

Lance Armstrong announces engagement to Hansen

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AUSTIN, Texas — Cyclist Lance Armstrong has announced his engagement to longtime partner Anna Hansen.

The couple has been together nearly a decade and have two children. Armstrong announced Wednesday on social media that he’d popped the question and posted a picture of the two of them on a boat on Lake Austin.

Armstrong was previously married to the former Kristin Richard, with whom he has three children. He also was previously engaged to singer Sheryl Crow before his relationship with Hansen.

Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times from 1999-2005 but those titles were later stripped away after revelations of performance-enhancing drug use.