May 25, 2016

CASSANO D'ADDA, Italy (AP) German rider Roger Kluge used his track cycling experience to take the biggest victory of his road career, winning the 17th stage of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday with a well-timed counterattack.

Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands had little trouble protecting his 3-minute lead over Esteban Chaves on the mostly flat 196-kilometer (122-mile) leg from Molveno to Cassano d'Adda.

Kluge responded to an attack from Filippo Pozzato in the final kilometer (mile) and easily overtook the Italian on the final straight to hold off the sprinting favorites.

Kluge had time to raise his right arm in celebration before he crossed the line in slightly more than 4 1/2 hours.

Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek-Segafredo finished second and Nikias Arndt of Team Giant-Alpecin crossed third, both with the same time as Kluge.

The 30-year-old Kluge won a silver medal in the points race at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also took silver in the omnium at this year's track worlds and a gold in the omnium at the 2010 European Championships.

''I've been a pro for six years and this is the big victory I have been looking for,'' Kluge said. ''It wasn't planned at all. I was working for Heinrich Haussler, closing the gap for him but I saw a possibility to get away. The finishing line was very near.''

The victory comes after Kluge's IAM Cycling team announced it would fold after failing to find a second sponsor.

''It's a strange feeling,'' Kluge said. ''Yesterday we were very disappointed to hear that our team is going to stop at the end of the year but we decided to stick together and it's wonderful to come up with a victory to make it up for our disappointment.''

Stage 18 on Thursday is the race's longest, a 244-kilometer (152-mile) leg from Muggio to Pinerolo that starts out flat but concludes with some steep hills and a dangerous descent.

''I knew this was my last easy day before some hard stages coming up,'' Kruijswijk said. ''(Tomorrow) is a stage with a hard and spectacular finale after a tricky downhill. I'm ready.''

There are also two more serious mountain stages Friday and Saturday before the 99th edition of the race ends Sunday in Turin.

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