It's climbers vs Dumoulin as the Giro heads into final week

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Tom Dumoulin.

An array of punishing climbs on the final week of the Giro d’Italia stand between time trial specialist Tom Dumoulin making history as the first Dutch winner of the race’s pink jersey.

But with a lead of over two and a half minutes on Colombian climbing specialist Nairo Quintana, and nearly four minutes on Italy’s two-time champion Vincenzo Nibali, triumph on the coveted 100th edition of the Italian race is now Dumoulin’s to lose.

“The third week will be very difficult,” Dumoulin has repeated every day since he took the race lead from Quintana with a crushing time trial victory at Montefalcone on stage 10.

And the towering Dutchman, with the smouldering film star looks, isn’t far wrong.

After a third and final rest day on Monday the pink jersey battle moves up a considerable notch Tuesday on a 16th stage which heralds the first of five consecutive days in the high mountains.

Quintana, the 2014 champion and a two-time runner-up at the Tour de France, should be in his element and hoping his Movistar team – as they have done so far – set the kind of punishing pace on the climbs that leave rival teams short of support riders.

Nairo Quintana.

On Sunday the diminutive Colombian thanked Dumoulin for slowing the pace of the peloton when he crashed on a descent 36 km from the finish line in Bergamo, so he could catch up.

“It was a nice gesture from a big rival and a great person,” said Quintana, who recovered sufficiently to finish second, just behind Luxembourg’s Bob Jungels but six seconds ahead of Dumoulin to reduce his arrears to 2:41.

But Quintana is unlikely to return the favour if Dumoulin – who has impressed so far on the easier climbing stages – is left behind him, and Nibali will be even less charitable on the descents.

Nibali, the defending champion who held off the threat of Colombian Fabio Duarte to win a snow-hit penultimate stage and seal his maiden pink jersey at Tre Cime di Lavaredo in 2013, sits fourth overall at 3min 40sec behind Dumoulin.

Like Quintana, Nibali has few options if he is to launch a late challenge for the main prize.

“Whoever is behind Dumoulin has nothing to lose. They have to attack him,” said Nibali’s Bahrain teammate Joaquim Rodriguez while on a visit to the race on Sunday.

Nibali, though, has looked below his usual best on the climbs featured so far, admitting Sunday: “On the climbs we’ve done so far, I’ve paid the price. But I can’t give any more than I have.”

A renowned downhill specialist known as ‘Il Squalo’ (The Shark), Nibali could now try and take a chunk out of his rivals on some of the many, long, technical descents to feature in the coming days, while hoping his climbing form improves.

Especially as the Giro d’Italia, which has never been won by a Dutchman, will be decided by a final-day time trial from Monza to Milan. Over 39.8 km last week, Dumoulin was 2:53 faster than Quintana and 2:07 quicker than Nibali.

Nibali added: “It’s not over, but I have a fairly big deficit to Dumoulin. If he ends up winning (the race) when we get to Milan, I’ll shake his hand.”

The race resumes Tuesday with a 222km 16th stage from Rovetta to Bormio which features a 12.6 km to the Mortirolo pass and two ascents of the Stelvio climb.

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Dumoulin beats Quintana to uphill win on Giro d'Italia stage 14

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Tom Dumoulin.

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin further underlined his Giro d’Italia victory ambitions by stunning Colombian rival Nairo Quintana to claim victory on Saturday’s 14th stage.

“This is really incredible. I’m super, super happy,” said Dumoulin, who attacked his Movistar rival inside the final two kilometres of an 11.8km climb to the summit finish at Oropa to take his overall lead over the Colombian to 2min 47sec.

Dumoulin, who has never won a three-week grand tour, had pushed 2014 champion Quintana down to second overall at 2min 23sec following a crushing win in the 10th stage time-trial on Tuesday.

It left Quintana needing to chip away at his deficit on his preferred terrain of the climbs.

But despite a couple of impressive attacks that appeared to set him up for his second stage win of this 100th edition, following his victory at Blockhaus on stage nine, Quintana was never able to open up a gap of more than 10sec on the big Dutchman.

As Quintana struggled to open up a decisive lead, Dumoulin sat in the saddle driving a four-man chase group whose persistence eventually reeled Quintana in with two kilometres to go.

By then, the road had levelled out and the Dutchman finally got out the saddle to overtake Quintana on his way to his second victory of this year’s race and third overall.

The bonus seconds on offer at the finish meant Dumoulin, who has rejected comparisons to former five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain, increased his lead on Quintana to 2:47.

But with the toughest climbs on the horizon starting from Tuesday’s 222km 16th stage from Rovetta to Bormio, Dumoulin added: “We haven’t done even half of the climbs of this Giro.

“The climbs in the last week will make it very hard… but this day they won’t take away from me.

“Now, I have an even bigger advantage. It’s a really nice advantage, but we can’t sit back and relax. We have to stay really focused and then we’ll see what happens in the next week.”

Meanwhile, UAE Team Emirates’ Rui Costa and Jan Polanc finished 16th and 17th respectively on the iconic Oropa stage.

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Gaviria claims fourth Giro d'Italia win in stage 13

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Fernando Gaviria.

Colombia’s Fernando Gaviria underlined his status as the 100th Giro d’Italia’s top sprinter after powering to an impressive fourth victory at the end of stage 13 on Friday.

Gaviria, of the Quick Step team, looked out of contention during a hectic dash for the finish but produced a ferocious late burst to stun Ireland’s Sam Bennett (Bora) at the end of a mainly flat 167km ride from Reggio Emilia to Tortona.

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, of Sunweb, finished close behind in the race leader’s pink jersey to maintain his 2min 23sec lead over race favourite and 2014 champion Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

But before the race for the ‘maglia rosa’ moves back into the mountains on Saturday’s 14th stage to the summit finish at Oropa, Gaviria enjoyed another day of glory on his race debut.

The Giro sprint field may be missing the likes of German Marcel Kittel, Briton Mark Cavendish and Slovakian Peter Sagan, but Gaviria, a former two-time world champion in track cycling’s omnium event, has been beaten only twice in five sprint finishes so far.

He lost out to German giant Andre Greipel on stage two and finished runner-up to Australian Caleb Ewan after a photo finish decision on stage seven.

Elsewhere, best for UAE Team Emirates were Robert Ferrari (4th), Sacha Modolo (7th), Matej Mohoric (25th) and Jan Polanc (35th).

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