May 21, 2016

CORVARA, Italy (AP) Dutch rider Steven Kruijswijk took the pink jersey following the ''queen'' stage of the Giro d'Italia as favorites Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde each struggled on Saturday.

Esteban Chaves, a Colombian with Orica Greenedge, won the 14th leg in a three-man sprint.

Chaves clocked more than six hours over the six classified climbs - including the Passo Pordoi, the Passo Sella, and the Passo Giau - on a spectacular 210-kilometer (131-mile) route through the heart of the Dolomite Range from Alpago to Corvara.

Kruijswijk, who rides for the Lotto NL-Jumbo team, crossed second, and Georg Preidler was third, each with the same time.

Nibali crossed fifth, 37 seconds behind, and was second in the overall standings, 41 seconds behind Kruijswijk.

''I felt I was a little bit better than Nibali so it was the right day to take advantage of it,'' Kruijswijk said. ''It's an enormous satisfaction to take the maglia rosa (pink jersey), especially in such a wonderful setting as the Dolomites.''

Kruijswijk finished eighth in the 2011 Giro and seventh last year, his best finishes in a Grand Tour.

No Dutch rider has ever won the Giro, and the Arctic Race of Norway in 2014 is the only stage race Kruijswijk has won.

Chaves was third overall, 1:32 back.

When Chaves joined Orica in 2014, he had a serious arm injury and was told by a physician that he would never be able to ride a bike again.

''That's why I raised it (his arm) in the air when I crossed the line,'' said Chaves, who is attempting to become the second straight Colombian to win the Giro following Nairo Quintana last year.

Nibali was the first of the general classification leaders to attack, on the final classified climb to Passo Valparola, and Valverde was instantly dropped.

Kruijswijk and Chaves followed Nibali then left the Sicilian behind.

''I was lucky that I had Esteban with me and we could work together,'' Kruijswijk said.

Nibali was able to limit the damage, while Valverde continued to drop further and further behind.

''Everyone was riding at their limits,'' Chaves said. ''Kruisjwijk started his attack then I tried to follow. It was a steep climb and when we saw Nibali was dropped we started to work together.''

Valverde finished 11th in the stage, three minutes behind Chaves, and was fourth overall, 3:06 behind.

''I was happy to drop Valverde. But (Chaves and Kruijswijk) attacked really strongly today,'' Nibali said. ''I struggled with the change of rhythm. I had to let them go and control my own effort.''

The stage required 5,400 meters (nearly 18,000 feet) of climbing.

Andrey Amador, who on Friday became the first Costa Rican to lead the Giro, dropped to fifth, 3:15 back. Amador dropped behind on the penultimate and toughest climb of the day to the Passo Giau.

Many stretches of the road were lined with snow, and huge crowds were right on top of the riders along the steepest sections.

The finish took place in Alta Badia near the Gran Risa course that hosts a World Cup skiing race each December.

Arnaud Demare, the Frenchman who won this year's Milan-San Remo classic, dropped out early in the stage.

On Sunday, there's an 11-kilometer (7-mile) mountain time trial from Castelrotto to Alpe di Siusi.

''Tomorrow is another important day,'' Nibali said. ''Let's see how I recover.''

The race ends next weekend in Turin.

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