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The battle between Italy and Australia for stage-winning dominance of the Giro d'Italia continued today in Marina di Grosseto, where Robbie McEwen took his second and his country's third win of the race. The consolation for Italy was that they kept their hands on the maglia rosa, although a victory in the Intergiro sprint and six-second bonus for Paolo Bettini meant that he regained the jersey at Danilo Di Luca's expense.
Yet again there was disappointment for Alessandro Petacchi, who crashed three kilometres from the finish when his Fassa Bortolo 'train' went into a corner too fast and lead man Marzio Bruseghin went down. A chain reaction followed down the Fassa line, with riders either hitting the deck or just coming to a complete halt as the bunch cut inside them and sped off to decide the finish without the usual Fassa set-up.
This caused some complications as McEwen found himself right at the front of the pack with almost three kilometres left. A couple of team-mates quickly got in front of the Australian, who was complaining of soreness in a hamstring this morning, and soon wound the pace up again.
The 6km finishing circuit that was covered three times featured a number of very sharp bends of the type that sank Fassa, and Davitamon's Henk Vogels got a gap as he came into one just over a kilometre from the finish. It was not clear whether this was a planned move by Vogels and team leader McEwen, but as the former shot under the kilometre banner with a lead of 50 metres, the latter looked round and made clear he wasn't going to lead the chase of his team-mate.
As the sprinters looked around, Panaria's Emmanuele Sella shot off in pursuit of Vogels. For 500 metres he appeared to be closing on the Australian, but then slipped back into the pack as the sprint began in earnest. One hundred metres from the line Vogels looked as if he still might make it across first, but he was engulfed 25 metres short of an audacious win, with team-mate McEwen the first rider past him for a victory that put him back into the magenta points jersey.
"We were all sitting behind Fassa on the last lap when they went into a corner too fast," explained McEwen afterwards. "Henk started setting the pace in front of me but it was too far out for us to think about setting up the sprint, so I just let him go and left the others to chase. I thought for a while that he was going to make it, but when the sprint started 300 metres out I could see that he was going to get caught so I made my move."
Crdit Agricole's Jaan Kirsipuu took second place, although the French team had a major setback when Julian Dean fell heavily on the Marina di Grosseto circuit. Initial reports said that the Kiwi had probably broken a collar-bone. Discovery Channel's Volodymyr Bileka was third, with Isaac Galvez fourth and the unlucky Vogels fifth, ahead of another Australian, Stuart O'Grady.
All of the main contenders finished in the pack behind McEwen.
Stage 6, Viterbo-Marina di Grosseto
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 153km in 3.37.17 (42.25kph)
2 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Crdit Agricole
3 Volodymyr Bileka (Ukr) Discovery Channel
4 Isaac Galvez (Spa) Illes Balears
5 Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
6 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis
7 Thomas Ziegler (Ger) Gerolsteiner
8 Paride Grillo (Ita) Panaria
9 Markus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner
10 Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile
37 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel
127 Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas-Bianchi
158 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Crdit Agricole 3.46
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 29.58.09
2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 0.03
3 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Panaria 0.28
4 Dario Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 0.31
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 0.33
6 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 0.39
7 Mauricio Ardila (Col) Davitamon-Lotto 0.40
8 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Liberty Seguros 0.44
9 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Domina Vacanze 0.49
10 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
41 Danielson 2.05
122 Wegelius 14.52
123 Wiggins 15.04
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