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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.”

After Giro crash, Thomas back to support Froome in Tour

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PARIS (AP) Chris Froome will have support rider Geraint Thomas alongside him again as he pursues a fourth Tour de France title in five years.

Thomas opened the year aiming for victory in the Giro d’Italia but was forced to abandon that race because of injuries sustained in a crash caused by a police motorbike.

Thomas recently returned in the Route du Sud and gives Team Sky a second overall option if Froome struggles.

Also named to Sky’s squad Thursday were: Sergio Henao, Vasil Kiryienka, Christian Knees, Michal Kwiatkowski, Mikel Landa, Mikel Nieve and Luke Rowe.

Landa was injured in the same Giro crash as Thomas but stayed in the race, winning the 19th stage and posting three more podium finishes to claim the mountains classification.

Henao and Landa should also escort Froome in the mountains.

Froome won the Tour in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

“Aiming for that fourth victory has given me a lot of motivation,” Froome said. “To me, each Tour tells a different story. Every Tour is a different battle in terms of getting that yellow jersey and then trying to hold on to it.”

Froome preceded each of his Tour victories by winning the Criterium du Dauphine but he finished only fourth in the warm-up race this year – with former Sky teammate Richie Porte taking victory. But the Kenyan-born British rider believes he’s still the man to beat.

“We’re ready as a team and I can’t wait for the Tour to start now. Honestly, I just love it. It’s a feeling that you don’t get from any other race,” Froome said.

Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain share the record with five Tour wins each – after Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven victories for doping.

“To win the Tour once is a huge achievement, but to win it a fourth time would be remarkable,” Sky team principal Dave Brailsford said. “We’ve selected a strong and experienced lineup who will support (Froome), and we’ll be looking to use the strength of the team to our advantage.”

The Tour begins July 1 in Duesseldorf and concludes in Paris three weeks later.

Cavendish back racing with Tour de France still possible

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) Mark Cavendish returned to cycling for the first time since March on Thursday at the Tour of Slovenia, and the sprint star remains hopeful he can start the Tour de France next month.

Cavendish had not raced since Milano-Sanremo in March. He came down with mononucleosis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus in April, forcing him to the sideline during his typical Tour prep.

The 32-year-old British cyclist has 30 stage wins in France, four shy of Eddy Merckx’s record.

This year’s Tour begins with a short time trial July 1 in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Cavendish said he’s “fit as I can be after four weeks of training,” but his health will be closely monitored during the four-day Tour of Slovenia. Sam Bennett won Thursday’s opening stage in a sprint.