Chaves, the ever-smiling climber from Orica-GreenEdge, got the best of Dutchman Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and frustrated Austrian Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) in an exciting finale to an extraordinary 210-kilometre stage from Alpago to Corvara in north-east Italy.
Another Colombian, Darwin Atapuma of BMC, took fourth place six seconds back before Italian race favourite Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) crossed the line for fifth place, 37 seconds adrift, having been distanced by Chaves and Kruijswijk on the sixth categorised climb of the day.
Nibali, the 2013 champion, now trails the impressive Kriujswijk by 41 seconds in a new-look top ten following a day to forget for the Movistar team of Spanish veteran Valverde and the overnight race leader Andrey Amador.
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Amador, the first Costa Rican to lead a Grand Tour, was dropped from a group of main favourites on the infamous Passo Giau some 43 kilometres from the finish. Amador managed to fight back on the descent – just in time to see his Movistar leader Valverde crack when Nibali made the decisive attack of the day on the Passo Valparola.
Chaves and Kruijswijk were the only two big favourites who could handle Nibali's acceleration – before riding clear of the Italian national champion in pursuit of the three remaining escapees up the road: Atapuma, Preidler and Kantstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data).
Lone leader Atapuma held a 35 seconds gap over the summit as Chaves and Kruijswijlk joined forces with Preidler and Siutsou behind.
Siutsou was dropped on the descent and caught by Nibali, who was limiting his losses by gradually closing the gap on his rivals. Atapuma still led the race after the short but sharp Muro del Gatto with five kilometres remaining – but the 28-year-old Colombian was cruelly caught by his pursuers inside the final two kilometres.
Preidler looked on course for an unlikely win as he led the leaders into the home straight, until Chaves opened up his sprint to take the first Giro stage win of his career ahead of the new maglia rosa.
“I’m really happy. Winning the queen stage in the Giro is really special but it’s not only for me, but for the whole Orica-GreenEdge team, who worked really well today. It’s a really big family and this is our win,” said Chaves, a double stage winner on last year’s Vuelta en route to finishing fifth.

Chaves powers to victory at Giro stage 14

Kruijswijk leads Nibali by 41 seconds on GC, with Chaves up to third place at 1:32. Valverde drops to fourth at 3:06 while Amador sinks from first to fifth at 3:15 ahead of Sunday’s mountain time trial.

BIG 37-MAN BREAK

With six categorised climbs on the menu – five of which rising to above 2,000 metres – it was no surprise that it took a while before a break to form. Once the pace dropped after an early average of 48.5 km/h the peloton split ahead of the ski resort of Arabba as 37 riders rode ahead of the peloton.
The leaders held a four-minute advantage going onto the Passo Pordoi and there was a sense of deja-vu when Austria’s Stefan Denifl (IAM Cycling) made the first selection from the break with a series of digs. Denifl was unable to repeat his KOM heroics from Friday’s thirteenth stage after Italian veteran Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini) surged clear to take maximum points over the climb to consolidate his lead in the blue jersey mountains classification.
Team Sky then demonstrated their strength in depth when David Lopez rode clear on the descent before cresting the summit of the stunning Passo Sella with a small lead over Sky team-mate Nicolas Roche. Having shrugged off Mikel Landa’s withdrawal by taking a win with Mikel Nieve on Friday, Sky seemed in a good position to double up – and had two cards to play in Lopez and Roche.
But with the peloton by now trailing by almost nine minutes, the constantly slimming group of leading riders was blown apart by an attack by Spanish veteran Ruben Plaza (Orica-GreenEdge) who rode clear on the Passo Gardena and stayed out ahead over the Passo Campolongo with 80 kilometres remaining.
Plaza, a stage winner in last year’s Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana while riding for Lampre-Merida, held an advantage of almost two minutes going onto the main test of the day, the snow-clad Passo Giau. But the 37-year-old struggled with the average 10% gradient and was caught and passed by Siutsou, Atapuma and Preidler before the summit.
Meanwhile, the main pack was experiencing a changing of the guard as Nibali’s baby blue Astana army took over the reins from Amador’s Movistar team and quickly whittled down the pack of main favourites to just 20 riders – while reducing the gap to four minutes going over the summit.
Amador bravely fought back on with a fast descent after being dropped on the Giau – and the Costa Rican joined the big guns just in time to see Nibali launch his stinging attack on the Passo Valparola.
Valverde was dropped straight away alongside Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2R-La Mondiale) but Russia’s Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Colombian Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) and Poland’s Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) managed to fight back to join Nibali, Kruijswijk and Chaves before the Dutchman put in a big dig 24 kilometres from the finish.
Nibali and Chaves responded but the Italian didn’t have the legs to keep up with his rival. Chaves then joined Kruijswijk as they looked to inflict as much damage as possible on their GC rivals. Atapuma, meanwhile, seemed guaranteed a first Grand Tour stage win – but it wasn’t to be, largely thanks to his compatriot’s stellar ride in a fantastic finale to the first major mountains stage of the race.

BIG WINNER OF THE DAY

Esteban Chaves took the stage win but it was Steven Kruijswijk who did the damage with his searing acceleration on the Passo Valparola, for which Vincenzo Nibali has no answer.
“I started the race with aspirations for the overall classification but I cannot believe I’m in the pink jersey now,” said Kruisjwijk – the second Dutchman to wear the maglia rosa this year following compatriot Tom Dumoulin's double stint in pink.
“I knew that this kind of stage would suit me pretty well after the first mountain stage we had yesterday. Today, I could attack and really had some good power. I was lucky that I had Esteban with me and we could work together. Tomorrow is going to be hard but I’m confident I can have a good time trial.”

BIG LOSER OF THE DAY

Andrey Amador lost the pink jersey but that was expected on a quite brutal day in the Dolomites. What wasn’t expected was the implosion of his Movistar team-mate Alejandro Valverde, who lost three minutes to many of his big rivals and drops to fifth in the general classification. Still, the Spanish veteran lives to fight another day – unlike Trek-Segafredo’s Ryder Hesjedal, the Canadian 2012 champion, who abandoned the race through illness.

TALKING POINT

Will Kruijswijk’s lack of support from his LottoNL-Jumbo team cost the Dutchman? The 28-year-old has ridden a flawless race, but now he’s leading his isolation may become all the more apparent.

COMING UP

Sunday’s 10.8km uphill time trial on Alpe di Siusi will be a stern test of all the favourites’ mettle but the time gaps should not be extraordinary.
Felix Lowe - @saddleblaze
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