VICENZA, Italy (AP) -Giovanni Visconti won the 17th stage of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday to claim another solo victory, while Vincenzo Nibali maintained his grip on the overall lead.
Visconti, who also won Sunday's 15th stage with an impressive solo climb, attacked near the top of the Crosara to triumph in a time of 5 hours, 15 minutes, 34 seconds along the mainly flat 214 kilometers (133 miles) from Caravaggio to Vicenza.
Ramunas Navardauskas led a bunch over the line to finish second, 19 seconds behind Visconti. Luka Mezgec was third. Navardauskas raised his arms in celebration as he crossed the line, possibly thinking he'd won the stage.
Visconti's success comes after a troubled 18 months in which he struggled with depression. The three-time Italian cycling champion was also banned for three months and fined $13,000 at the end of last year for seeing banned physician Michele Ferrari.
"There was a moment in which I simply felt that I was one of so many others, I had fallen into a dark abyss because of problems which couldn't be solved in two months. It was a really awful period for me," Visconti said. "The other day, on the Galiber, it was as if something became unblocked inside me head. Let's say that today I got the first victory of my new career.
"In life you can make mistakes, what matters is to understand and to have the courage to turn the page, to move forward. I managed that. Now I'm going to look foward."
It is Movistar's third stage victory in a row and fourth in this year's Giro.
Nibali, who finished third and second in his last two Giro races, maintained his lead of 1:26 over Cadel Evans and remains on course to win his country's biggest cycling race for the first time.
"Tomorrow's time trial is really not a walk in the park," Nibali said. "I hope to continue how I'm doing, to go forward with this (leader's) jersey. I'm good, I have good feelings, and I will try to do my best as I have always done.
"It will be a hard course tomorrow. It's the first of three mountain stages where you have to give everything you have left. But for now, the legs are turning and I'll continue on my path - and we'll do the sums at the end. Today I also controlled the stage, the climb near the end was hard but tomorrow will be another story."
There was a very early break of four riders as Maxim Belkov, Miguel Rubiano, Gert Dockx and Luke Durbridge set the pace in the first kilometer, building a lead of about 5 minutes despite the peloton's increased pace.
Driven by Omega Pharma - which was hoping for a fifth win in this year's race for Mark Cavendish - the peloton went even faster and the gap started to drop rapidly on the narrow, winding roads before the start of the category-4 climb.
Belkov dropped back, and the remaining trio led by a minute as they started up the Crosara.
Durbridge, who at 22 is the youngest rider in the Giro, struggled on the climb and was soon passed by Danilo Di Luca. The Italian also overtook Dockx and caught up to Rubiano as Visconti took off in pursuit to catch up with the two leaders.
Visconti and Rubiano pulled clear before the former attacked on the top of the climb to build a lead of 30 seconds on the descent to the final flat kilometers.
There was a series of attacks from the peloton but a lack of cohesion in the group enabled Visconti to maintain his advantage.
The Italian kept looking behind as he pedaled furiously, and it almost went horribly wrong when he came close to slipping off his bike on a tight turn with two kilometers remaining.
Thursday's 18th stage is the first of three more mountain legs, a 20.6-kilometer (12.8-miles) time trial from Mori to Polsa.
The Giro ends May 26 in Brescia.