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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.

Cycling’s top riders set for Tour of California next month

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The top men’s and women’s teams will compete next month in the Amgen Tour of California, the premier U.S. cycling race.

The men will cover 645 miles over seven stages from Long Beach to Sacramento from May 13 to May 19. The women will have three of the top five teams for their three-day, 187-mile race that starts May 17 in Elk Grove.

Race owner AEG announced Thursday that Pete Sagan will ride for the BORA-hansgrohe team while Mark Cavendish will go for Team Dimension Data and be joined by Rafal Majka.

Tony Gallopin of AG2R La Mondiale is in the men’s field. So is LottoNL-Jumbo’s Nielson Powless, the race’s best young rider in 2016.

The women feature 2016 champion Megan Guarnier of USA Cycling National Team, Katie Hall of UnitedHealthcare and Kasia Niewiadoma of Canyon/SCRAM.

Niki Terpstra wins Tour of Flanders

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OUDENAARDE, Belgium — Niki Terpstra continued his fine form by winning the Tour of Flanders classic with a well-timed late attack on Sunday, becoming the first Dutch rider in more than 30 years to win the race.

Terpstra caught a mini-breakaway group of three riders on the final climb, and the Quick-Step Floors rider moved too far ahead to be caught. Danish rider Mads Pedersen finished second and Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert – last year’s winner – was third.

“It’s a dream come true. Winning Paris-Roubaix (in 2014) and now the Tour of Flanders,” Terpstra said. “Those two races were always a big dream for me when I was young kid. I was already crazy about those two races, I can’t describe how happy I am.”

The previous Dutchman to win the Tour of Flanders was Adri van der Poel in 1986, and this was Terpstra’s second classics win in quick succession. He also won the E3 Harelbeke on March 23.

As he neared the line in Oudenaarde, after 263 kilometers (163 miles) of grueling riding in tricky conditions, Terpstra looked round three times to see where Pedersen was. Finally, he knew victory was assured and raised his arms in the air as he free-wheeled the last 20 meters.

Along with the rain and chilly temperatures, riders weren’t helped by a stray car driving on the course in the Flemish town of Aalst, about 60 kilometers into the race.

Startled riders cautiously navigated around the slow-moving gray car, or moved aside. After a few moments, the driver finally managed to get off the course.

The race, also known as De Ronde, is one of five higher-profile classics along with Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia.

It features 18 short but punishing climbs and five cobblestone sections.

Terpstra caught the front three – which included Pedersen – on the final grueling Paterberg cobble climb and opened up a comfortable lead.

Earlier, a crash on a slippery road took down some 10 riders, sending one of them rolling into a roadside ditch. It was similar to a crash during last year’s race, which took down 2016 winner Peter Sagan. He was not caught up in it this time.

Sagan, who won the Gent-Wevelgem classic for the third time last Sunday, finished sixth.

With 40 kilometers left, the front trio of Pedersen and Dutch pair Sebastian Langeveld and Dylan van Baarle led by about 30 seconds.

Approaching the final 25 kilometers, Italian rider Vicenzo Nibali, the 2014 Tour de France champion, launched a surprise attack. But he did not get far before being caught by the pack.

After catching the front three, Terpstra opened up a lead of 40 seconds. Sagan attacked with 16 kilometers left, deciding it was time to chase him down. But he realized it was a futile chase and eased up with eight kilometers left.

Paris-Roubaix, known as the “Hell of the North” for its even more challenging cobbles, is next Sunday. Last year, Olympic road champion Greg Van Avermaet overtook Zdenek Stybar just before the line in a thrilling finish.

But Terpstra will be the rider to stop.