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Milan wins chaotic sprint at end of 11th stage of Giro. Pogacar stays in pink

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FRANCAVILLA AL MARE, Italy (AP) — Italian cyclist Jonathan Milan sprinted to victory at the end of the 11th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday, while Tadej Pogacar kept his firm grip on the leader’s pink jersey.

Milan, who rides for the Lidl-Trek team, edged out Tim Merlier and Kaden Groves in a bunch sprint that was made even more chaotic by the headwind at the finish at Francavilla al Mare.

Merlier hit the front first and must have thought he was set for his second win in this year’s race but Milan blasted past him on the left to instead become the man to double up — after he also sprinted to victory on the fourth stage.

“I think today it’s just unbelievable what the guys did for me,” Milan said. “I have to say thanks from the bottom of my heart for this. I’m so happy to see their happy faces.

“It’s always tricky the final, how to predict him (Merlier) and how to move … In the end I found myself on his wheel. I think it was the perfect wheel. He started his sprint really, really, really strong but then I tried to make mine and it went good.”

Milan won a stage last year on his Giro debut as well as the points jersey, which he also currently holds.

It was a lengthy slog on Wednesday but the 207-kilometer (129-mile) route from Foiano di Val Fortore featured just one third-category climb before it headed along the Adriatic coast.

The final four kilometers had some risky road traffic but Pogacar finished safely with the rest of the contenders to maintain his lead of 2 minutes, 40 seconds ahead of Daniel Martinez.

Last year’s runner-up Geraint Thomas, who is third, picked up two potentially valuable bonus seconds but was still 2:56 behind Pogacar.

Thursday’s 12th stage starts flat along the coast but then cuts inland for four fourth-category climbs on a 193-kilometer (120-mile) route from Martinsicuro to Fano.

The Giro ends in Rome on May 26.

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AP cycling: /hub/cycling