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Vincenzo Nibali, Steven Kruijswijk, and Esteban...

Giro podium begins to take shape

Steven Kruijswijk, Vincenzo Nibali, and Esteban Chaves round out the Giro's top 3 overall after a decisive day in the Dolomites

CORVARA, Italy (VN) — A mammoth mountain stage through the sun-soaked Dolomites on Saturday drew out what will likely become the Giro d’Italia’s podium finishers in Torino in one week’s time.

Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo) and Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica – GreenEdge) attacked and dropped favorite Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on the climbes, with the former taking control of the race leader’s pink jersey and Chaves nabbing the stage. However, Nibali helped distance Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) by three minutes and limited his loss to Kruijswijk and Chaves to stay within the fight.

Kruijswijk now leads by 41 seconds over Nibali and 1:32 over Chaves with seven days left to race. Valverde sits further back at 3:06 with a group of others who could potentially began to scrap for places among themselves.

“Yeah, they made a great move,” Nibali said. “I had to ease up a bit when they attacked [on the Passo Valparola at 24km out] and manage my strength. The Giro d’Italia has changed, we have Kruijswijk and Chaves to deal with now, no longer Movistar. Honestly, I thought that Valverde was going to be better.”

With help from Michele Scarponi earlier on the Valparola climb, Nibali dislodged Valverde and overnight race leader Andrey Amador (Movistar). He then fell victim to the attack from Kruijswijk and Chaves.

“It was a wonderful day for me, I was dreaming of it,” Kruijswijk said. “I was really close to the pink jersey yesterday and today it happened. It means a lot to me.

“I proved I’m in good condition now. We have to see how things stand after tomorrow’s time trial. I lost 10 seconds in the Chianti time trial to Nibali. If he takes 10 seconds from me I can still be in the pink jersey, but I hope to put time on him instead of losing time.”

Chaves crashed against a pole in the 2013 Trofeo Laigueglia and ripped the nerves in his right arm. Only a nine-hour surgery back home in Bogotá saved him.

“Can I win the Giro d’Italia? Why not,” explained Chaves. “Mat Hayman won Paris-Roubaix, and five weeks before he had broken his arm. When I crashed, the doctors said that with my arm I could not race anymore. Now, I won a stage here, so everything is possible.”

The other Giro favorites faded quickly. Tom Dumoulin (Giant – Alpecin) abandoned a few days ago, Mikel Landa (Sky) on Tuesday, and 2012 winner Ryder Hesjedal (Trek – Segafredo) Saturday. Valverde lost three minutes in stage 14 with a group that included other earlier hopefuls Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), and Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale).

The Giro has yet to finish, but the day through the Dolomites gave followers a good idea of who will be standing on top when it arrives in Torino.