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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.

Thomas and Froome remain 1-2 in Tour after hilly 14th stage

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MENDE, France – Sky teammates Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome remained 1-2 in the Tour de France after the hilly 14th stage as an anticipated shakeup in the overall standings didn’t come to fruition on Saturday.

Spanish rider Omar Fraile won the stage in the Massif Central by bursting from a group of breakaway riders on the finishing climb.

Fourth-placed Primoz Roglic was the only overall contender to gain time, finishing eight seconds ahead of Thomas, Froome, and third-placed Tom Dumoulin – with all four riders finishing more than 18 minutes behind Fraile, who remained far back in the standings.

Thomas leads four-time champion Froome by 1 minute, 39 seconds. Dumoulin is third, 1:50 behind, and Roglic is fourth, 2:38 back.

Fraile had time to celebrate before crossing the line, finishing six seconds ahead of Julian Alaphilippe, the Frenchman wearing the polka-dot jersey awarded to the Tour’s best climber.

Jasper Stuyven of Belgium finished third, also six seconds back, and three-time world champion Peter Sagan came fourth.

It was the first career victory at the Tour for Fraile, who rides for the Astana team.

The hilly 188-kilometer (117-mile) route from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Mende in southern France passed through the Ardeche gorges, home to cave paintings dating back some 36,000 years.

Stage 15 on Sunday from Millau to Carcassonne is another hilly leg before the race’s second rest day on Monday. Then come the Pyrenees and a possibly decisive individual time trial in the penultimate stage before the traditional finish in Paris next weekend.

 

Sagan takes third win at Tour, Thomas keeps lead on Stage 13

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VALENCE, France (AP) After most of the other top sprinters at the Tour de France succumbed in the Alps, Peter Sagan was in prime position to dominate Friday’s flat finish.

Cycling’s world champion did not disappoint, timing his move to reach maximum speed as he swung past two challengers to claim Stage 13 by a wheel length and take his third win of this race.

Seconds after Sagan reasserted his status as the most feared finisher left on the Tour, overall leader Geraint Thomas safely crossed in the pack along with teammate – and nearest challenger – Chris Froome.

Behind about 20 riders with a kilometer to go, Sagan charged to overtake runner-up Alexander Kristoff and Arnaud Demare, who finished third, at the finish line.

Sagan’s 11th career win at the world’s biggest bike race came after he was the fastest to the line in bunch sprints on Stages 2 and 5.

This time, Sagan was racing against a field of sprinters greatly depleted by three grueling days in the mountains.

Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen, who both won two stages on this Tour, along with Andre Greipel all abandoned the race on Thursday, while 30-stage winner Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel failed to make the time cut on Wednesday.

Sagan said their absence made sprinting “messy.”

“It’s changed,” he said. “Everybody wants to do a sprint now. It’s pretty messy.”

Facing no attacks on the flat stage, Thomas had no trouble maintaining his advantage of 1 minute, 39 seconds over defending champion Froome.

Tom Dumoulin stayed third overall at 1:50 behind. Primoz Roglic was fourth at 2:46, and Romain Bardet was fifth at 3:07 back.

After overzealous fans marred Thomas’ win on Thursday atop the Alpe d’Huez, the otherwise complete calm of Friday’s leg was briefly disturbed by a man on the roadside who tossed a smoke bomb into the center of the peloton as it passed by with 16 kilometers left.

Thomas said he didn’t see the smoke bomb which, besides spitting out yellow fumes, appeared to do no harm.

As for the jeers directed toward him and Froome by fans skeptical of Froome’s clearance from doping allegations days before the start of the Tour, he said it was part of being in the spotlight.

“I would rather be on the podium and be booed than be on the bus and have everyone cheering me,” Thomas said.

Thomas did ask for fans to not interfere in the race after Froome was slapped on the back going up Alpe d’Huez and contender Vincenzo Nibali was forced to quit after he broke a vertebra when knocked to the ground by a police motorbike tasked with keeping back the crowd.

The 169.5-kilometer (105-mile) leg starting from Bourg d’Oisans at the foot of the Alpe d’Huez delayed the resolution to the burning question of this race: Is Thomas really Sky’s top option while Froome seeks a fifth Tour title?

Thomas has said that although he would work to support Froome, he is not going to intentionally lose time.

But with Thomas so far proving to be the stronger rider even in the mountains where Froome normally makes his mark, their team appears ready to let the road decide.

“We’ve got two cards to play and it’s good for our strategy,” Sky sports director Nicolas Portal said before Friday’s stage.

“Who knows how long (Geraint) can hold this top level? Same for Froomey. The most important thing is the group is strong and we have the best position.”

Saturday’s Stage 14 is a hilly 188-kilometer trek from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Mende as the race makes its way to the Pyrenees Mountains.

And Froome seems eager for the action to return.

“Tomorrow we can see some good battles between the favorites,” Froome said.

Associated Press writers Andrew Dampf and Ciaran Fahey contributed

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