Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) admits he's surprised to be leading the Giro d'Italia going into stage 17 but he's not taking his three-minute lead for granted heading into the final mountain stages.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) showed he's still up for the fight on stage 16, despite sitting over three minutes down on the Dutchman, attacking on the climbs and eventually winning the stage ahead of the man in the pink jersey.
The Spaniard moved up to third in the general classification with his win, behind Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and Kruijswijk knows he's got his work cut out to defend his lead.
"I won’t underestimate my rivals. Valverde is in great condition and I won’t make that mistake," Kruijswijk told Gazzetta World.
“There were a lot of attacks on the first climb [of stage 16]. I understand why they made them, but I knew which ones I had to check. I responded to the attacks of [Vincenzo] Nibali and Valverde, then I controlled the stage.”
Who is Steven Kruijswijk
Kruijswijk finished second on stages 14, 15 and 16 to build his lead, while rivals such as Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Chaves faded on the short mountain stage on Tuesday.
But while all those high finishes have put him in a good position to win the Giro d'Italia on Sunday, Kruijswijk admits he'd have liked to win a stage.
“I would have liked to win one as a gift to the team. There is a hint of regret,” he said
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1