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Battaglin wins 5th stage as Dennis maintains Giro lead

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SANTA NINFA, Sicily (AP) Enrico Battaglin surged ahead at the perfect moment to win the fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday as Chris Froome and most of the other favorites finished in the main pack.

Rohan Dennis held onto the overall leader’s pink jersey with a 1-second lead over defending champion Tom Dumoulin, with four-time Tour de France winner Froome 55 seconds back.

Giovanni Visconti led coming around the final turn with 200 meters (yards) to go before Battaglin accelerated to take his third career Giro victory, having also posted victories in 2013 and 2014.

Visconti crossed second and Jose Goncalves of Portugal finished second, both with the same time as Battaglin.

Battaglin, who rides for Team LottoNL-Jumbo, clocked slightly more than four hours over the 153-kilometer (95-mile) leg from Agrigento to Santa Ninfa in southwestern Sicily.

The start of the stage was delayed for 15 minutes due to an accident on the racing route that left a motorcycle driver in serious condition.

Yates’ Giro lead cut in half, Schachmann wins 18th stage

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PRATO NEVOSO, Italy – Simon Yates remained in the lead of the Giro d’Italia but the British rider’s advantage over closest rival Tom Dumoulin was slashed in half after the tough 18th stage on Thursday.

Yates was dropped by his rivals on the steep Category 1 climb to Prato Nevoso and he finished 28 seconds behind defending champion Dumoulin, who crossed the line with Domenico Pozzovivo and Chris Froome.

“I was just tired, that’s it. Still a few days to go. I can bounce back, no worries,” Yates said.

Maximilian Schachmann of Germany won from a breakaway to claim his first victory in a Grand Tour.

Schachmann attacked heading into the final section of the climb, finishing 10 seconds ahead of Ruben Plaza and 16 ahead of Mattia Cattaneo.

The rest of the breakaway, which escaped 16 kilometers into the mainly flat 196-kilometer (122-mile) route from Abbiategrasso finished more than a minute off the pace.

“The final kilometers were really, really hard,” said Schachmann, who rides for Quick-Step Floors. “I knew I had a good chance from the breakaway. I tried to play it safe, to not attack too early. It was really hard, we are already on stage 18 so no one has fresh legs anymore.”

Yates’ lead was cut to 28 seconds heading into the final three days of the Giro, which includes two brutal days in the Alps before the procession to Rome.

“I always said if I have the legs then I will keep on trying,” Dumoulin said. “I had the legs today and I tried and it worked. Finally, after two and a half weeks.”

Pozzovivo remained third but was 2:43 behind Yates, with Froome a further 39 seconds behind.

Froome arrived at the Giro bidding to become the third person to win three Grand Tours in a row but the four-time Tour de France champion crashed in training before the opening time trial, lost time in a split on stage four, and injured himself again in a second crash four days later.

“It was quite a good day today,” Froome said in Italian. “This is the first of three consecutive stages which will be very hard. We saw for the first time Simon not at 100 percent. That surprised me as until now he has been fantastic.

“After the fall at the start I didn’t feel 100 percent but each day I felt better and now I’m quite good.”

There are four mountain passes on the route up to Bardonecchia on Friday, followed by Saturday’s “queen stage” up to Cervinia.

The Giro finishes in Rome on Sunday.

Viviani wins 17th stage for 4th win, Yates keeps Giro lead

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ISEO, Italy (AP) Elia Viviani sprinted to his fourth victory of this year’s Giro d’Italia on Wednesday, and Simon Yates maintained his hold on the leader’s pink jersey after the 17th stage.

The Italian won a bunch sprint through rain at the end of the hilly, 155-kilometer ride from Riva del Garda to Iseo, holding up four fingers as he crossed the line.

Sam Bennett, who was looking for his third victory, was second and Niccolo Bonifazio was third.

“Bennett could have moved level today. It was a stage that was more suited to him. He tried to put us in difficulty,” said Viviani. “It was a hard stage because no one wanted to let the breakaway go. The team did a super job. I think they were perfect.”

Danny van Poppel was the first to launch his sprint on the rain-soaked approach to the finish, but Zdenek Stybar and Fabio Sabatini gave a great leadout for Viviani, their Quick-Step Floors teammate.

“I had a few slips, and I just lost the nerve,” said a teary Bennett, his voice cracking with emotion. “I just couldn’t get out. I had the legs again and I just couldn’t get out.”

There was no change in the general classification with Yates leading defending champion Tom Dumoulin by 56 seconds.

“There’s no easy day at the Giro,” Yates said. “This was another hard one and it could have some impact on the coming mountain stages. I heard about splits in the bunch but I never knew who was caught behind.

“I hope everyone is tired because I’m tired.”

Domenico Pozzovivo remained 3:11 behind Yates and 39 seconds ahead of four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome as the races prepares to head into the Alps.

Thursday’s 18th stage is a mainly flat 196-kilometer route from Abbiategrasso to Prato Nevoso, but ends with a steep Category 1 climb – the first of three summit finishes.

There are four mountain passes on the route up to Bardonecchia Friday, before Saturday’s “queen stage” up to Cervinia.

The Giro finishes in Rome on Sunday.