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Chaves takes Giro lead as Kruijswijk crashes into snowbank

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RISOUL, France — Steven Kruijswijk crashed into a snowbank on a dangerous descent and Colombian rider Esteban Chaves surprisingly took the overall lead in the Giro d’Italia following a wild 19th stage Friday.

Vincenzo Nibali won his first stage of this year’s race and moved up from fourth to second overall, only 44 seconds behind Chaves, with one more challenging leg to go before the 99th edition of the race ends in Turin on Sunday.

“I won with rage today. It hasn’t been easy to handle everything that has happened over the past few days,” said Nibali, the pre-race favorite who struggled over the past week.

Having begun the stage with a three-minute lead, Kruijswijk dropped to third overall, 1:05 behind Chaves.

“I’m happy to have the Maglia Rosa (pink jersey) and be so close to winning the Giro but there’s another hard stage tomorrow,” Chaves said. “I’m sorry for Steven Kruijswijk. He made a small mistake in the downhill but he defended himself very courageously.”

Shortly after coming over the foggy Colle dell’Agnello pass, the highest point of the race at an altitude of 2,744 meters (9,000 feet), Kruijswijk lost control on a left turn and collided with a big wall of snow. The Dutchman flipped forward in the air and landed hard on his back and left arm, causing some painful scrapes and dirtying his pink jersey.

After putting his hand to his head to check that his helmet was still intact, Kruijswijk went to recover his bike, which needed mechanical assistance from a neutral race official’s car. Then he had to stop again, once his Team Lotto NL-Jumbo car had finally caught up to give him a spare bike to use.

Ilnur Zakarin, the Russian with Katusha who was fifth overall, had a more serious fall on the descent and had to abandon the race with a reported broken left collarbone.

Nibali clocked nearly 4 hours, 20 minutes over the 162-kilometer (101-mile) leg from Pinerolo to Risoul, France.

Mikel Landa, a Spaniard with Sky, finished second, 51 seconds behind, and Chaves was next, 53 seconds back.

Nibali attacked Chaves and dropped the Colombian on the final climb to Risoul, which could give the Italian the impetus to do the same thing Saturday. The 20th stage is a 134-kilometer (83-mile) leg from Guillestre, France, to Sant’Anna di Vinadio that features three first-category climbs and finishes uphill with a third-category ascent.

“I tried to stay with Nibali but he was too strong for me today,” Chaves said.

An aching Kruijswijk crossed nearly five minutes after Nibali.

Alejandro Valverde also struggled, and dropped from third to fourth overall, 1:48 back.

The 26-year-old Chaves is a pure climber who won the race’s “queen” stage, the 14th leg across the Dolomites. The Orica-Greenedge rider also won two stages en route to a fifth-place finish in last year’s Spanish Vuelta. He’s attempting to become the second Colombian to win the Giro after Nairo Quintana in 2014.

Kruijswijk had taken the lead following the 14th stage and appeared to be cruising toward victory.

Attempting to follow Nibali and Chaves, Kruijswijk’s crash occurred with about 50 kilometers (30 miles) to go and he had no teammates around to help him. Nibali, by contrast, was aided on the finishing climb to Risoul by Astana teammate Michele Scarponi, who slowed up to help his captain after going ahead in an early breakaway.

Following Saturday’s final test in the mountains, the race ends Sunday with a flat 163-kilometer (101-mile) leg from Cuneo to Turin.

Nibali wins Milan-San Remo classic with solo attack

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SAN REMO, Italy (AP) Vincenzo Nibali carried off a daring solo attack to perfection to win the Milan-San Remo classic on Saturday and add to his long list of major achievements in cycling.

The Italian accelerated away from the pack on the Poggio, the final climb of the 294-kilometer (183-mile) race, with 7 kilometers to go.

Nibali then showed off his downhill skills on the technical descent and narrowly held off a pack of chasing sprinters on the flat finish.

Nibali looked back only once, with 50 meters remaining, and realized he had time to raise his arms in celebration before crossing the line in a time of 7 hours, 18 minutes, 43 seconds.

“I saw I created a gap right away,” Nibali said. “When I looked back it was a special emotion. It’s a race I didn’t expect to win because I’m not (a sprinter).

Caleb Ewan of Australia crossed second and Arnaud Demare of France finished third, both with the same time as Nibali.

Nibali, who rides for the Bahrain Merida team, has also won all three Grand Tours: the Giro d’Italia – twice – the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta.

Always looking for the fastest lines, Nibali at one point came so close to the fences that he knocked a cell phone out of a fan’s hand.

“When I pull these things off sometimes even I don’t know how I’m able do it,” Nibali said.

Mark Cavendish, the British sprinting standout, slammed into road furniture with 10 kilometers to go and flipped over his bike onto the asphalt.

Kwiatkowski wins Tirreno-Adriatico, Dennis takes final stage

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SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy (AP) Michal Kwiatkowski won the Tirreno-Adriatico cycling race Tuesday after an impressive time trial on the final stage, which was won by Rohan Dennis.

Kwiatkowski started the individual time trial with an advantage of three seconds over Damiano Caruso and he was quicker than the Italian rider at every time check.

The Polish cyclist eventually finished 24 seconds ahead of Caruso in the overall standings, with Geraint Thomas third, 32 seconds behind his Team Sky teammate.

“I don’t actually know the final result, just that I won, and that’s all that matters,” Kwiatkowski said. “It was very nervous. When I was warming up it started raining so I was scared something might go wrong.

“I had to go with lower tire pressure. It was tricky … I had to be careful but I had good feelings today and that’s why I could finish so well.”

Thomas lost 36 seconds to the leaders following a mechanical failure during the fourth stage of the seven-stage race.

Dennis was quickest on the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto. The Australian, who also won the closing time trial last year, was four seconds faster than Jos van Emden and eight ahead of Jonathan Castroviejo.

“To be honest I was nervous about it,” Dennis said. “I was looking at the best times on the course and was thinking, `What do I need to aim for?”‘