22 May 2016 - 4:00 AM  UPDATED 22 May 2016 - 6:27 AM

Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) won the queen stage of the Giro d'Italia as Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) claimed the maglia rosa in emphatic fashion.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) limited his losses but the biggest loser was pre-race favourite Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). 

Chaves won a four-rider bunch sprint over Kruijswijk, George Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) and Darwin Atapuma (BMC) on the gruelling 210km six categorised climb filled stage from Alpago to Corvara. 

"To win a stage at the Giro d'Italia was my dream since I started my pro career. I love this race. To win the hardest stage is even better. It's awesome. Thank you to the guys and to my director Matt Blanco (White)." Chaves said. 

Out the front alone with 25km to go and part of the large early breakaway, Atapuma was agonisingly caught by the rapidly approaching trio with just 1.8kms to go. 

Nibali arrived home fifth and 37 seconds adrift, while Valverde, dropped on the final climb, finished 11th, three minutes behind Chaves. Overnight race leader Andrey Amador could not follow the pace on the second last climb and finished 14th and three minutes and 52 seconds down. 

New minted maglia rosa Steven Kruijswijk said he asked his sport director if he should save energy for tomorrow's uphill time trial.

"We decided we wouldn't. I felt I was a little bit better than Vincenzo Nibali so it was the right day to take advantage of it.

"Luckily a strong guy came with me. It's an enormous satisfaction to take the Maglia Rosa, especially in such a wonderful setting as the Dolomites." 

The earlier action

A small group of favourites arrived together at the foot of the final Passo Vaparola climb including Valverde, Nibali, Chaves, Kruijswijk, Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R).

Nibali attacked as the road inclined with around 27kms to race. Only Chaves and Kruijswijk were able to counter. Then the Dutchman launched, gaining a small gap which Chaves bridged. 

While Nibali failed to make up time on the descent, he worked valiantly to limit his losses and still sits somewhat comfortably in second on the overall classification. 

Another large group kicked off breakaway proceedings after 50kms raced. Several chancers tried their luck out front from the bigger breakway. Chaves' team-mate Ruben Plaza enjoyed 50kms alone cresting the Gardena (cat. 3) and Campolongo (cat. 2) climbs before he was caught by Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data) and Atapuma on the penultimate Passo Giau (cat. 1). Earier, David Lopez (Sky) too enjoyed time out the front over the Passo Sella (cat. 2). 

 

Sunday 22 May 2016

Sport director Matt White assessed the performance of the team and Chaves.

“Esteban rode a very very smart race today,” White said. “It was probably the hardest stage you will see in any race this year and he waited brilliantly for the perfect moments to go on the attack.”

“We definitely saw who the best climbers were because there was nowhere to hide out there today. Esteban has been feeling good and the team did another fantastic job of protecting and supporting him into the final third of the stage.

“Ruben (Plaza) rode very well in the breakaway for us. It was a hard stage to plan for because everything can change on that kind of course but in the end it worked really well for us going into the final.

“We are in a great position now going into tomorrow’s crucial uphill individual time trial.”

The 28-year-old finished second in the queen stage behind Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and moved into the lead by 41 seconds on Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and 1min 32sec on Chaves.

"All day, I felt very well," Kruijswijk said. "I knew that after yesterday that this stage would be good for me. In the end, I could attack. I still power in my legs.
 
"Chaves joined and we worked well together, but I also knew that he would be the man to beat for the stage win. He also wanted to grab more time on the other classification riders and I was going for the pink jersey.
 
"It worked out well and I am very happy that I have it now."
 
The Giro d'Italia continues with a 10.8-kilometre time trial up Alpe de Siusi.
 
"It's the third day in the mountains and I am confident that I will be good in the time trial," Kruijswijk said. “An uphill time trial is different from one on the flat, but I feel good." 
 

Prior to the 14th stage, Movistar appeared to be in the box seat with Andrey Amador in the Maglia Rosa and Alejandro Valverde sitting ominously in fourth place.

But it all fell apart on the 210km from Alpago Farra to Corvara Alta Badia when the pair could not respond to the attack by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and later pressure from new race leader Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and stage winner Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge).

Valverde remains in 4th but at 3min 6sec down while Amador is 5th, 3min 15sec back. Hope remains for the two men in blue, but it's fading as the trio ahead look to be that much stronger.

"First of all, I'd like to thank all the fans who have been supporting us during this week, both in good and bad moments, yesterday and today," Amador said.

"It was a tough day for us. The team was absolutely excellent. I struggled to keep the pace of the group into the Giau, but could bridge back into the downhill. Obviously, I had nothing left to keep chasing in Valparola, and I could just keep a steady pace to try and not too lose too much time.

"It was difficult for me, also for Alejandro, but we remain in overall contention. That's the only thing we must keep thinking of at this moment. It wasn't a course that suited me well, either. I know Bala will turn things around. 

"We must forget about today, or just learn about what we did wrong so as not repeat it. Tomorrow is another day to keep fighting."