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Last Updated: Monday, 15 May 2006, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Vaitkus edges Giro sprint finish
Tomas Vaitkus
Vaitkus claimed a narrow victory on Monday
Tomas Vaitkus of the French Ag2r team sprinted home to win Monday's ninth stage of the Giro d'Italia from Francavilla al Mare to Termoli.

The 23-year-old beat Olympic champion Paolo Bettini and German Olaf Pollack in a photo finish after a mass sprint at the end of the 132-km stage.

CSC's Italian rider Ivan Basso finished 27th in the same time as the winner to retain the leader's pink jersey.

Vaitkus said: "As the first Lithuanian to win a stage at here, it's special."

Vaitkus was under-23 world time trial champion in 2002 but now uses his speed for sprint finishes. He has won seven races in his four-year professional career.

He added: "I've been close in all the other Giro sprints but never managed to win and when I saw Bettini put his arms up I thought I'd lost again.

"Fortunately the photo finish proved I'd got it."

The climbs cooked me a bit and I just didn't have the legs to go in a long sprint
Robbie McEwen

Vaitkus also played down accusations from the second-placed Italian that he had squeezed him towards the roadside barriers during the final metres of the sprint, costing him his chances of victory.

He said: "I saw Bettini go on my left and, when I jumped, I moved a bit to my left, but that was because I was sprinting at 100%.

"It was a natural movement and definitely not intended to damage Bettini's sprint."

Meanwhile, three-time stage winner Robbie McEwen admitted the climbs in the final 30km of the stage had taken their toll as he finished the race in fourth spot.

"The climbs cooked me a bit and I just didn't have the legs to go in a long sprint like that," the Australian said.

"I was able to get back on after the climbs but I didn't have much left and I struggled all the way to the line."

Tuesday's 187km 10th stage is from Termoli to Peschici in Italy's south, before the Giro transfers north to Tuscany for the second rest day of this year's race.


Stage nine results:
1. Tomas Vaitkus (Lithuania / AG2R) 3 hours, 05 minutes, 13 seconds
2. Paolo Bettini (Italy / Quick-Step) same time
3. Olaf Pollack (Germany / T-Mobile)
4. Robbie McEwen (Australia / Davitamon - Lotto)
5. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium / Francaise des Jeux)
6. Alexandre Botcharov (Russia / Credit Agricole)
7. Manuele Mori (Italy / Saunier Duval)
8. Maximiliano Richeze (Argentina / Panaria)
9. Leonardo Duque (Colombia / Cofidis)
10. Alessandro Spezialetti (Italy / Liquigas)

Overall standings:
1. Ivan Basso (Italy) 34 hours, 46 minutes, 30 seconds
2. Jose Gutierrez Cataluna (Spain) 1:34 behind
3. Damiano Cunego (Italy) 1:48
4. Paolo Savoldelli (Italy) 2:35
5. Sergiy Honchar (Ukraine) 2:43
6. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) 2:48
7. Gilberto Simoni (Italy) 3:20
8. Giampaolo Caruso (Italy) 3:23
9. Tom Danielson (USA) 3:31
10. Jose Vigil Rubiera (Spain) 3:39



SEE ALSO
Basso victory secures Giro lead
14 May 06 |  Cycling
Verbrugghe claims stage success
13 May 06 |  Cycling
Gontchar takes overall Giro lead
11 May 06 |  Cycling
Schumacher leads Giro d'Italia
08 May 06 |  Cycling
Savoldelli opens Giro defence
06 May 06 |  Cycling


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