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Dumoulin keeps Giro lead despite nature break in 16th stage

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BORMIO, Italy — Tom Dumoulin’s overall lead in the Giro d’Italia was drastically reduced in the race’s toughest stage Tuesday after the Dutchman stopped to answer the call of nature at the foot of the last of three major climbs.

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali of the Bahrain-Merida team won the 16th leg, which crossed the Mortirolo and Stelvio passes.

Just before the unprecedented ascent to the Umbrail pass in Switzerland, Dumoulin stopped at the side of the road, stripped off his pink jersey and hopped down into a ditch to take care of business. By the time Dumoulin got back on his bike, the Team Sunweb rider had already dropped far behind his rivals.

“I just had some problems,” Dumoulin said. “I started to feel it in the downhill of the Stelvio and I had to stop. Back on the bike I decided to fight and draw conclusions after the finish. I’m still in the maglia rosa (leader’s pink jersey) but I’m above all very disappointed.”

Becoming the first Italian rider to win a stage in this year’s race, Nibali edged Mikel Landa of Team Sky in a two-man sprint, with 2014 champion Nairo Quintana crossing third, 12 seconds behind.

Dumoulin finished more than two minutes back but maintained a 31 second lead over Quintana, while Nibali moved up from fourth to third overall, 1:12 behind.

Thibaut Pinot dropped from third to fourth and Ilnur Zakarin remained fifth.

Dumoulin entered the stage 2:41 ahead of Quintana. He took the lead by dominating an individual time trial in Stage 10 and then won Stage 14, which finished with a serious climb to Oropa.

While Dumoulin ordered his team to slow down and wait when Quintana fell in the previous stage, Nibali and Quintana didn’t wait for him this time.

“I don’t know. It’s difficult to say,” Dumoulin said when asked if his rivals should have waited. “It was a racing situation and we were going full gas.”

While Dumoulin is considered the sport’s faster rider in time trials, he still hasn’t proven himself as an elite climber. His best Grand Tour finish was sixth in the 2015 Spanish Vuelta, a race he led until he cracked two stages from the end.

“This is not something I was hoping for and I also don’t think it shows my level at the moment,” Dumoulin said. “I had good legs. But there’s nothing to do about it. I’m disappointed about myself that I lost two minutes while not having bad legs or anything but just having a problem.”

The 222-kilometer (138-mile) route from Rovetta to Bormio first ascended the narrow Mortirolo then went over the Stelvio before concluding with the Umbrail pass on the Swiss side of the Stelvio.

Part of an early breakaway, Landa of Team Sky was first over the snow-covered Stelvio, which marked the three-week race’s highest point at an altitude of 2,758 meters (9,049 feet).

After a technical descent featuring nearly 50 hairpin turns, there was hardly any flat ground before the final climb up the Umbrail, which lasted 13 kilometers (eight miles) at a gradient between 9 and 12 percent. Then it was another long, high-speed descent of 19 kilometers (12 miles) into Bormio, an Alpine village known for its thermal baths and World Cup skiing races.

Nibali attacked up the Umbrail and then showed off his downhill skills on the descent to catch Landa and take his 13th individual stage win at a Grand Tour after a ride of nearly 6 1/2 hours.

“It’s the victory of a complete rider. I had to be consistent from start to finish in a long and difficult stage,” Nibali said. “At the end I had to be an aggressive climber, a good downhill rider and a sprinter.”

At the start of the stage, a moment of silence was observed for the victims of the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande show in Manchester, England, plus the death of ex-MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden, who was hit by a car while training on his bicycle.

Stage 17 on Wednesday is a 219-kilometer (136-mile) leg from Tirano to Canazei featuring three categorized climbs, followed by an even tougher stage through the Dolomites on Thursday.

The 100th Giro ends Sunday with an individual time trial in Milan that should favor Dumoulin.

“There are more difficult stages to come but Dumoulin also has a time trial to his advantage in Milan,” Nibali said.

Froome finishes 10th in Ruta del Sol, Wellens wins

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MADRID (AP) Chris Froome finished Spain’s Ruta del Sol race in 10th place behind winner Tim Wellens on Sunday.

The five-stage race in southern Spain was Froome’s first event since the four-time Tour de France winner was found to have failed a doping test at last year’s Spanish Vuelta.

Froome, who denies any wrongdoing, has been ordered to explain to the International Cycling Union why a urine sample he provided at the Spanish Vuelta in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol at twice the permitted level.

Wellens, a Belgian rider for Lotto-Soudal, defended his lead over the final day’s time trial.

Wout Poels, of Froome’s Sky Team, was second at eight seconds behind.

Froome, who won the event in 2015, finished 1 minute, 57 seconds behind. He started the time trial on the final day in 14th after a puncture toward the end of Saturday’s fourth stage.

Froome returns to racing despite doping investigation

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MALAGA, Spain (AP) Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome is returning to racing on Wednesday despite being under investigation by cycling’s world governing body for failing a doping test.

Froome is participating in the five-day Ruta del Sol in southern Spain, an event he won in 2015.

“I know I have done nothing wrong, that’s my starting point,” Froome said. “There is a process in place for me to be up to demonstrate that, and that’s obviously what I intend to do.”

Froome has been ordered to explain to the International Cycling Union why a urine sample he provided at the Spanish Vuelta in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol at twice the permitted level.

He said he has received a lot of support from other riders so far, and that he is trying to solve the issue as fast as possible.

“I do believe that when all the facts are out there I think people will see it from my point of view,” Froome said.

If found guilty of doping, the British rider could lose his Vuelta title and be suspended for a long period.