Kruijswijk reinforces Giro overall lead, Valverde wins stage

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ANDALO, Italy (AP) Dutch rider Steven Kruijswijk strengthened his grip on the pink jersey by finishing second to Alejandro Valverde on the 16th stage of the Giro d'Italia on Tuesday.

Pre-race favorite Vincenzo Nibali had another bad day and saw his faint chances of winning a second Giro title all but disappear.

Valverde edged Kruijswijk on the mountainous 133-kilometer (83-mile) leg from Bressanone to Andalo to claim a first stage win in the Giro.

''It's a good day for me as I move up in the overall ranking, although I wanted a stage win as a gift for the mechanics, soigneurs, directors, my family... all the people who have helped me overcome the day I had on Saturday because of the altitude,'' Valverde said. ''It was only one bad day though.

''It's a great feeling to win for the first time at the Giro.''

Ilnur Zakarin had been in the leading group with Kruijswijk and Valverde but was dropped 250 meters from the finish line and came in 8 seconds behind the front two.

It was a third successive second place for Kruijswijk, who increased his lead over Esteban Chaves to 3 minutes, and looks ever more likely to become the first Dutchman to win the Grand Tour.

''Second yet again,'' Kruijswijk said. ''I wanted to give my team a win but it's an ideal situation for the Maglia Rosa as I'm now three minutes ahead of Esteban Chaves and the others.

''I was feeling really good so I had to make the best of this short but really hard stage.''

Valverde leapfrogged Nibali into third, 3:23 behind Kruijswijk. Nibali is 4:43 behind the Lotto NL-Jumbo cyclist.

Nibali struggled in Sunday's mountain time trial, where he had to deal with a dropped chain and spectators blocking his path.

The 2013 Giro d'Italia winner had another mechanical problem early in Tuesday's stage and had to change bicycles with a teammate.

Although the Italian recovered and was part of the leading group of nine which started the climb up the Fai della Paganella, he was later dropped on that penultimate ascent - the second of two second-category climbs - as Valverde attacked and was followed by Kruijswijk and Zakarin.

Nibali, who also won the Tour de France in 2014 and the Spanish Vuelta in 2010, continued to suffer and came in nearly two minutes off the pace.

Wednesday's 17th stage is a mainly flat 196-kilometer (122-mile) leg from Molveno to Cassano d'Adda, which will favor the sprinters.

The 99th Giro ends on Sunday in Turin.