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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 May 2007, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Petacchi claims fourth Giro stage
Petacchi celebrates
Petacchi's successful sprint was set up by his Milram team
Alessandro Petacchi took the 18th stage of the Giro d'Italia, his fourth win of the race, to extend his commanding lead in the sprint standings.

Petacchi's chief sprint rival Robbie McEwen dropped out after the 11th stage before the race entered the mountains.

An eventful 126-mile leg into Riese Pio X saw a crash in the last mile delay world champion Paolo Bettini.

Petacchi's Milram team chased down a group of seven who attacked with 22 miles gone to set up the sprint.

And the Italian nosed ahead of Panaria's Maximiliano Richeze and Matti Breschel of CSC at the line in a time of four hours, 32 minutes and 51 seconds.

"It was a difficult sprint because the finish was on a slight hill," Petacchi said.

"I would like to thank my team-mates who worked hard the whole day.

"We don't have the entire team and it's not easy to control a race for 200km."

Danilo di Luca held on to the overall lead, two-and-a-half minutes ahead of Andy Schleck.

If he holds onto the lead through Saturday's 26.7-mile individual time trial from Bardolino to Verona the Liquigas rider is likely to put on the final pink jersey in Milan the following day.

Di Luca was among four Giro riders given surprise drug tests late on Wednesday as part of a probe by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) into an investigation launched by Italian police in 2004.

"I'm not at all worried because it's related to 2004 and my lawyer has already asked that my case be closed," he said.

  • Meanwhile, German Erik Zabel posted his first win of the season when he took Thursday's second stage of the Tour of Bavaria.

    Zabel was last week among a group of former Telekom riders who admitted they took the blood booster EPO in the 1990s but is the only rider still active.

    His current team, Milram, decided two days ago to keep Zabel until the end of the year, before ruling on whether to honor the last year on his contract.

    Zabel said he never took drugs again after the 1996 Tour de France.

    Thursday's Giro stage result:
    1. Alessandro Petacchi (Italy / Milram ) 4hrs 32mins 51secs"
    2. Maximiliano Richeze (Argentina / Panaria ) same time
    3. Matti Breschel (Denmark / Team CSC )
    4. Thomas Fothen (Germany / Gerolsteiner )
    5. Oscar Gatto (Italy / Gerolsteiner )

    Overall standings:
    1. Danilo Di Luca (Italy / Liquigas ) 82:08:26"
    2. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg / Team CSC ) +2:24"
    3. Gilberto Simoni (Italy / Saunier Duval ) +2:28"
    4. Damiano Cunego (Italy / Lampre ) +3:29"
    5. Eddy Mazzoleni (Italy / Astana ) +3:46"

    Sprinters' standings:
    1. Alessandro Petacchi (Italy / Milram ) 160 points
    2. Danilo Di Luca (Italy / Liquigas ) 122
    3. Paolo Bettini (Italy / Quick-Step ) 104
    4. Leonardo Piepoli (Italy / Saunier Duval ) 93
    5. Gilberto Simoni (Italy / Saunier Duval ) 92



    SEE ALSO
    Simoni wins tough mountain stage
    30 May 07 |  Cycling
    Drug revelations spark IOC probe
    30 May 07 |  Cycling
    Garzelli snatches Giro stage win
    26 May 07 |  Cycling
    Bruseghin claims time trial win
    25 May 07 |  Cycling
    Luca regains Giro d'Italia lead
    24 May 07 |  Cycling
    Petacchi wins third Giro sprint
    23 May 07 |  Cycling


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