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Track cyclist Kluge takes Giro stage; Kruijswijk keeps lead

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CASSANO D’ADDA, Italy — German rider Roger Kluge used his track cycling experience to take the biggest victory of his road career, winning the 17th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday with a well-timed counterattack.

Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands had little trouble protecting his 3-minute lead over Esteban Chaves on the mostly flat 196-kilometer (122-mile) leg from Molveno to Cassano d’Adda.

Kluge responded to an attack from Filippo Pozzato in the final kilometer (mile) and easily overtook the Italian on the final straight to hold off the sprinting favorites.

Kluge had time to raise his right arm in celebration before he crossed the line in slightly more than 4 1/2 hours.

Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek-Segafredo finished second and Nikias Arndt of Team Giant-Alpecin crossed third, both with the same time as Kluge.

The 30-year-old Kluge won a silver medal in the points race at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also took silver in the omnium at this year’s track worlds and a gold in the omnium at the 2010 European Championships.

“I’ve been a pro for six years and this is the big victory I have been looking for,” Kluge said. “It wasn’t planned at all. I was working for Heinrich Haussler, closing the gap for him but I saw a possibility to get away. The finishing line was very near.”

The victory comes after Kluge’s IAM Cycling team announced it would fold after failing to find a second sponsor.

“It’s a strange feeling,” Kluge said. “Yesterday we were very disappointed to hear that our team is going to stop at the end of the year but we decided to stick together and it’s wonderful to come up with a victory to make it up for our disappointment.”

Stage 18 on Thursday is the race’s longest, a 244-kilometer (152-mile) leg from Muggio to Pinerolo that starts out flat but concludes with some steep hills and a dangerous descent.

“I knew this was my last easy day before some hard stages coming up,” Kruijswijk said. “(Tomorrow) is a stage with a hard and spectacular finale after a tricky downhill. I’m ready.”

There are also two more serious mountain stages Friday and Saturday before the 99th edition of the race ends Sunday in Turin.

After Giro win, Froome quickly changes focus to Tour

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ROME (AP) Now that Chris Froome has wrapped up the Giro d’Italia title, his focus will quickly switch to matching the record with a fifth Tour de France title – unless a doping case gets in the way.

Froome is racing under the cloud of a potential ban after a urine sample he provided at the Spanish Vuelta in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol that was twice the permitted level.

Froome maintains he has long struggled with asthma.

“I know I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said after lifting the Giro trophy Sunday .

“Obviously the next challenge for me has got to be the Tour de France,” Froome added. “I’m already thinking about it.”

Still, it remains unclear when the International Cycling Union will rule on the case, which could result in a lengthy ban.

“We’ve been focused on the race here and we’ll look at that in the weeks to come,” Team Sky director Dave Brailsford told The Associated Press.

No rider has achieved the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998.

“I’ve got to celebrate what an amazing victory this was but I’m definitely going to keep things tidy tonight thinking about recovering from this,” Froome said. “I really think it’s possible.”

There are six weeks between the Giro and Tour, so Froome will need to carefully calibrate the balance between rest, recovery and training.

“There’s a difference between physical and mental rest and switching off completely,” Brailsford said. “The trick here is to stay in the same gear but obviously you got to recover and then get fresh enough to be able to go again. Switching off totally and relaxing totally is not the way to do it.”

With one more Tour title, Froome will match the record held by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

Lance Armstrong had won seven Tour titles but was stripped of them all for doping.

With the Tour starting a week later than usual because of the soccer World Cup in Russia, Froome has the luxury of extra time to prepare.

Sky sporting director Nicolas Portal said Froome would likely follow the Giro with one week of rest, then a training camp at altitude followed by high-intensity training.

The Tour runs July 7-29 and Froome plans to inspect some of the course before it starts.

“We’ve got a few more (stages) to do, then obviously we want to work a little bit on the team time trial and we’re probably going to go through the cobbles again,” Brailsford said. “There’s a bit of work to be done.”

Besides the usual mountain stages, this year’s Tour features a team time trial in Stage 3, a 35-kilometer (22-mile) route starting and ending in Cholet in western France.

Stage 9 could also be tricky, with 15 treacherous cobblestone sections: the highest number since the 1980 Tour, with nearly 22 kilometers (13.6 miles) altogether.

“He’s pretty confident about it, actually,” Brailsford said. “He’s happy on the dirt, he’s happy on a mountain bike and I think he’ll be happy on the cobbles.”

 

Froome effectively seals Giro title in penultimate stage

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CERVINIA, Italy (AP) Chris Froome effectively sealed victory in the Giro d’Italia on Saturday by holding his only remaining challenger in check up the final climb of the three-week race.

The four-time Tour de France champion takes a 40-second lead over Tom Dumoulin into Sunday’s mostly ceremonial finish in Rome and is poised to win his third consecutive Grand Tour, matching the achievements of cycling greats Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault.

Dumoulin attacked Froome multiple times on the finishing climb of the 214-kilometer (133-mile) leg from Susa to Cervinia but in five attempts wasn’t able to gain any ground. After Dumoulin’s fifth attack, Froome responded with an acceleration of his own and dropped Dumoulin briefly.

Spanish rider Mikel Nieve of the Mitchelton-Scott team won the stage with a long, solo breakaway to celebrate his 34th birthday.

The concluding stage is a flat 115-kilometer (71-mile) leg of 10 laps around a circuit through the center of Rome.