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(Reuters) - Alejandro Valverde kept alive his hopes of winning this year's Giro d'Italia with victory in the 16th stage on Tuesday, but race leader Steven Kruijswijk maintained a firm grip on the pink jersey by finishing second.
Former champion Vincenzo Nibali cracked towards the end of the stage and his chances of winning for a second time after his 2013 triumph were seriously dented.
Spaniard Valverde outsprinted Dutchman Kruijswijk at the end of the hilly 132-km ride between Bressanone and Andalo while Russian Ilnur Zakarin took third place eight seconds behind.
Kruijswijk (Lotto NL-Jumbo) now leads Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) by three minutes while Valverde lies third, 3:23 off the pace after collecting a 10-second bonus for his win.
Valverde and Zakarin (Katusha) launched the decisive attacks on the last climb of the day, jumping away with Kruijswijk to fight for victory.
Chaves could not follow but limited the damage he sustained, finishing eighth, 42 seconds behind Valverde. Nibali, the 2014 Tour de France champion, ran out of gas and finished 1:47 off the pace.
He is now fourth overall, 4:43 behind Kruijswijk.
Wednesday's 17th stage is a flat 196-km ride from Molveno to Cassano d'Anda.
Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis