Quintana takes lead with win on brutal 16th stage

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VAL MARTELLO, Italy (AP) - Nairo Quintana moved into the overall lead in the Giro d’Italia after winning a tough and controversial 16th stage, in difficult weather conditions across the legendary Gavia and Stelvio climbs on Tuesday.

Quintana, who is famed for his climbing skills, finished eight seconds ahead of Ryder Hesjedal. Pierre Rolland was third, 1:13 slower, on the 139-kilometer (86-mile) route from Ponte di Legno to Val Martello - half of which was uphill.

The 24-year-old Quintana - one of the race favorites - started the day 2 minutes and 40 seconds behind former leader Rigoberto Uran but beat his fellow Colombian by more than four minutes.

Uran slipped to second, 1:41 behind Quintana, who showed he has recovered from a difficult opening two weeks, in which he suffered badly from a crash and also had to take antibiotics to fight a chest cold and fever.

“It was raining a lot. We couldn’t see any motorcycle. We all knew it was very dangerous,” Quintana said. “We climbed the Stelvio together, and we all started to descend. There were four or five of us who pulled clear of the group.

“I went at my rhythm. I gave everything today. I was climbing well in the end.”

Cadel Evans was third, 3:21 behind Quintana, and only five seconds ahead of Rolland, with other rivals also gaining time on the Australian.

It was the first time both the Gavia and the Stelvio had been climbed on the same day and the stage was an exact copy of one of the legs in last year’s Giro, which had to be altered because of bad weather.

There were fears the weather would again affect the stage this year and there was brief confusion as it was wrongly reported the route down the Stelvio had been neutralized with blizzards and rain making the technical descent even more treacherous.

Some teams as well as the person responsible for the Giro’s official twitter account misinterpreted instructions to be careful on the descent, with riders slowing down at the top, wrongly understanding it to have been neutralized.

“The communication was badly interpreted by some teams,” race director Mauro Vegni said. “The indications only highlighted the danger of several curves in a risky part of the descent. It was never said that the race was neutralized or that they shouldn’t race.”

Several team directors continued to insist they had been told by the race radio to tell their cyclists the descent had been neutralized.

That came after the cyclists had already dealt with heavy fog and snow on the Gavia.

There was a group of 10 cyclists in the break which led up up the Stelvio and although, they had a lead of over two minutes, that started to come down on the climb.

Dario Cataldo attacked 2km (1.2 mile) from the summit and went on to claim the Cima Coppi prize, awarded to the cyclist who crosses the highest point of the race first.

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