De Gendt defies windy conditions for prestigious Ventoux win

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MONT VENTOUX, France (AP) Thomas De Gendt hates riding in the wind. With gusts reaching 130 kph at the Mont Ventoux on Thursday, the Belgian rider was worried he might not even reach the finish inside the time limit.

He ended up claiming the biggest win of his career.

De Gendt won the wind-shortened and chaotic 12th stage of the Tour de France on the “Giant of Provence” on Thursday after getting into an early breakaway and easily sprinting past fellow Belgian Serge Pauwels on the steep slopes.

“Usually these stages are the stages I’m the most afraid of because of the time limit,” De Gendt said. “With the wind I was afraid I could drop in the last group and miss the cut for the time limit because I can’t ride in the wind.”

Organizers moved the finish line six kilometers (3 1/2 miles) down the road to the Chalet Reynard because of the wind. It was still a grueling 10-kilometer (six-mile) climb featuring several sections with gradients exceeding 10 percent.

De Gendt, who finished third at the Giro d’Italia in 2012 after posting another prestigious victory at the Stelvio Pass that year, and Pauwels fought for victory from a breakaway group that set off only a few kilometers after the start.

They built a maximum lead of more than 18 minutes before Etixx-Quick Step riders accelerated and split the bunch. De Gendt, who rides for the Lotto Soudal team, benefited from the unexpected help of teammate Andre Greipel, a star sprinter with limited abilities in mountain stages.

After bringing bottles to De Gendt throughout the stage, Greipel attacked at the foot of the Ventoux in a move that forced other riders to show their cards.

“Immediately, we saw who the stronger guys were,” De Gendt said. “And during the stage, he also did most of the pulling in the leading group. Today, he tried to do a little bit more for me. It shows how great Andre Greipel is ready to work for smaller riders.”

De Gendt then attacked with four kilometers left and outsprinted Pauwels at Chalet Reynard to seize the best climber’s polka-dot jersey. A few kilometers behind, race leader Chris Froome was involved in crash caused by a TV motorbike but was allowed to keep the yellow jersey after the Tour race jury ruled he lost time in unfair circumstances.

De Gendt said his next goal will be to win a stage at the Spanish Vuelta in order to complete a full set of Grand Tour stage victories.

Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin wins 100th Giro d’Italia

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MILAN — Tom Dumoulin won the 100th Giro d’Italia in dramatic fashion Sunday, reclaiming the overall lead in a final-stage individual time trial.

It’s the first Grand Tour victory for Dumoulin, a Dutchman with Team Sunweb, and it sets him up as a potential rival for three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome.

Dumoulin entered the final stage in fourth position but finished far enough ahead of his rivals over the flat 29-kilometer (18-mile) route from Monza’s Formula One race track to Milan’s cathedral to move back into the lead.

“This is crazy. I could not have imagined this,” Dumoulin said. “I was strong. I was lucky. Just everything fell into place the whole Giro.”

In the overall standings, Dumoulin finished 31 seconds ahead of 2014 champion Nairo Quintana of Colombia and 40 seconds ahead of last year’s winner, Vincenzo Nibali of Italy.

Dumoulin’s fellow Dutchman Jos van Emden won the 21st stage in 33 minutes, 8 seconds.

“It couldn’t be better,” Van Emden said. “I’m really happy for Tom. He deserves it.”

Dumoulin came second in the stage, 15 seconds behind. Nibali came 13th, 1:09 behind Emden and Quintana was 27th, 1:39 back.

Dumoulin entered the final stage 53 seconds behind Quintana.

Dumoulin also won the race’s other time trial in Stage 10 and claimed Stage 14, which had an uphill finish. Dumoulin wore the leader’s pink jersey for eight days but then struggled in the serious mountain stages and lost the lead to Quintana two days ago.

Dumoulin came close to winning the 2015 Spanish Vuelta, which he led heading into the penultimate stage. But he faded fast on the final mountain ride, and finished sixth behind winner Fabio Aru. The final stage was the traditional leisurely arrival to Madrid, which offered no chance to come back.

This time, the concluding time trial was just what Dumoulin needed, enabling him to become the first Dutch rider to win the Giro.

Relief came via the team radio.

“I was feeling good. Halfway they said `Don’t take risks anymore,’ so I thought, `Maybe I’m winning now?”‘ Dumoulin said. “They better never do that again, because it was close in the end.”

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.