Vaitkus upstages sprinting big guns

Tomas Vaitkus announces his sprint credentials by holding off Bettini, Pollack and McEwen to take Li

Tomas Vaitkus announces his sprint credentials by holding off Bettini, Pollack and McEwen to take Li


Ag2r grabbed a rare victory by a French team in the Giro d'Italia when 24-year-old sprinter Tomas Vaitkus held off Paolo Bettini by a tyre's width to win the ninth stage in Termoli. In doing so, Vaitkus became the first Lithuanian rider to win a stage in the Giro.

After two tough days over the weekend, today's short run of just 127km was always likely to fall to the sprinters as the major contenders took the chance for a breather. Once again, Milram led coming into the final kilometre, but once again the Italo-German team was lost without team leader Alessandro Petacchi to finish off their good work.

In the end, Vaitkus made the first burst for the line from 200 metres out. It seemed too far, but the Lithuanian judged it perfectly as Bettini failed to get by him and Olaf Pollack and Robbie McEwen finished frustrated. There was no notable change in the overall standings.

Stage 9, Francavilla al Mare-Termoli

1 Tomas Vaitkus (Lit) Ag2r Prvoyance 127km in 3.05.13 (42.76kph)
2 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
3 Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
5 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Franaise des Jeux
6 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Crdit Agricole
7 Manuele Mori (Ita) Saunier Duval
8 Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Panaria
9 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis
10 Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Liquigas

- CSC's Fabian Cancellara returned from his post-Classics break with some style as he took today's opening stage of the Tour of Catalonia, a 12.6km time trial in the resort of Salou. The Swiss rider beat Russia's Vladimir Karpets by three seconds, with Discovery Channel youngster Janez Brajkovic and Robbie Hunter just behind.

Stage 1, Salou time trial

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 12.6km in 14.55 (50.69kph)
2 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 0.03
3 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel
4 Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak
5 Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak 0.05
6 Andrea Peron (Ita) CSC 0.08
7 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Milram 0.10
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) CSC 0.11
9 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner
10 Nicolas Jalabert (Fra) Phonak

13 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 0.13
15 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Phonak 0.15
16 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) CSC 0.17
20 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.21

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