One day after IAM Cycling announced they were folding at the end of the season, Kluge gave the Swiss team their first Grand Tour stage win since their inception four years ago in a dramatic off-script conclusion to the 196-kilometre stage from Molveno.
Latching on to a late surge by Italian veteran Filippo Pozzato (Wilier-Southeast) in the final kilometre, Kluge somehow held off the rampaging peloton before soloing to victory in disbelief by a matter of metres. The 30-year-old became the third German stage winner of the race following Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel.
With both those stars among the long list of sprinters to have withdrawn from the race, Italian Giacomo Nizzolo was favourite to notch a maiden scalp in his home tour. But the Trek-Segafredo sprinter was forced to settle for second place ahead of Germany's Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) – and consolidating his lead in the red jersey points standings would have been scant consolation for Nizzolo in a stage seemingly tailor-made for his superior kick.
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Italians Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) and Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) completed the top five on an otherwise quiet day on the Giro.
Dutch maglia rosa Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished safely in the main pack to retain his three-minute lead over Colombia's Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) in the general classification with four days remaining in the 99th edition of La Corsa Rosa.

Highlights: Roger Kluge earns surprise win on stage 17

THREE BECOMES SIX

Ahead of a rolling first half three riders broke clear of the pack after just two kilometres as Italian serial escapee Daniel Oss (BMC), experienced Russian Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) and Albania’s Eugert Zhupa (Wilier-Southeast) built up a maximum lead in excess of five minutes with the race edging towards the plains of Lombardia in northern Italy.
A hungry Oss won both intermediate sprints and crested the summit of the only categorised climb, the Cat.4 Passo Sant-Eusebio, in pole position as the gap came down to just over a minute entering the final 30 kilometres.
Behind, Nizzolo warmed up by picking up maximum points for fourth place in both intermediate sprints – and it would have taken a brave man to bet against the 27-year-old belatedly opening up his Giro account come tea time.
But when Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal), Ignatas Konovalovas (FDJ) and Maxim Belkov (Katusha) pinged off the front of the pack and joined forces with the leaders with 22 kilometres to go, the first seeds of doubt were sown.
A narrow 12-second lead soon ballooned to 30-odd seconds as Bak rallied a six-man break which suddenly began to believe in the impossible.
If it wasn’t to be, then it was not to be for the teams of the race’s remaining sprinters, either.
After Bak jumped clear inside the final two kilometres just as his fellow escapees were reeled in, Italian veteran Pozzato showed that there was life in the old show pony yet by dancing on the pedals and surging to the front of the race.
Behind, a lone rider – Kluge – extricated himself from the pack and caught Pozzato with a few hundred metres remaining. Kluge dug deep to hold off the sprinters after they stirred into action – keeping things entertaining to the death by sitting up early and almost getting caught on the line.

BIG WINNER OF THE DAY

With he and his IAM Cycling colleagues looking to put themselves in the shop window following news that the team will fold at the end of the season, Roger Kluge pretty much guaranteed that the offers will come flooding in by doing the seemingly impossible in Cassano d’Adda.

BIG LOSER OF THE DAY

On a day that had zero bearing in the fight for pink – with all the race favourites finishing safely in the main pack – there was really only one loser: Giacomo Nizzolo. The Italian notched his fourth runner-up spot of the season in a stage that he really should have won.
Only Nizzolo can contrive to win a sprint but lose a stage. The atmosphere in the Trek-Segafredo camp on Wednesday night will be tense, to say the least.

TALKING POINT

Will Nizzolo win the red jersey for a second successive year without notching a win? It’s looking that way – unless he can turn things round in Turin on Sunday.

COMING UP

The longest stage of the race is a largely flat 240km ride from Muggio to Pinerolo which has a sting in the tail: a tough double-digit climb to Pramartino before a dangerous drop to the finish. The perfect occasion for Vincenzo Nibali to save his Giro, perhaps?
Felix Lowe - @saddleblaze
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