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September 5, 2009

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Greipel wins stage to snatch Vuelta lead

GERMAN Andre Greipel won stage five of the Spanish Vuelta (Tour of Spain) from Tarragona to Vinaros on Thursday to claim the overall race lead.

Second behind the Columbia-HTC rider in the bunch sprint was Belgian Tom Boonen, with Italian Daniele Bennati third.

Already the winner of stage four, a 20-second time bonus for Greipel's second victory in the race propelled him into the overall lead.

Greipel overtook Boonen in the final few meters to take the 174-kilometer stage in 4 hours, 27 minutes, 54 seconds.

The win gave him a combined time of 19:40:23, enough to replace Swiss Fabian Cancellara as the overall leader.

Boonen, who rides for Quickstep, trails Greipel by six seconds in the overall standings after fading in the sprint finish.

Bennati of Liquigas trails Greipel by 17 seconds.

American rider Tyler Farrar of Garmin moved into fourth overall -- 21 seconds back -- after crossing the finish line behind Bennati and ahead of Williams Bonnet of France.

Cancellara, who has led since taking the first stage time trial, dropped 27 seconds behind Greipel in fifth after crossing the finish line 56th -- 18 seconds behind the stage winner.

Greipel's 17th win of the season is the latest in a run of success stretching back to Australia's Tour Down Under in January and earned the 27-year-old from Rostock his first ever lead in a major Tour.

"Every one of those wins is important, but this victory was unforgettable, a real key moment in my career," Greipel told reporters.

"When this race is over I'll have this leader's jersey framed and put on a special place somewhere in my house."

Greipel said a teammate's puncture in the final frantic kilometer of racing had forced a quick change of plan.

"We had problems almost in sight of the finish line when one of our riders punctured, and we had to change our tactics in a split second.

"Fortunately, we were able to sort it out and I could do my sprint and win."

The German's next challenge is the hilly 176km sixth stage starting and finishing in Xativa.

"I've no idea how long I'll be in the lead, but they say the leader's jersey gives you wings and I'm feeling very motivated," Greipel said.

Riders were coming off a rest day after the first four stages were raced across the Netherlands and Belgium.

Last year's Vuelta champion, Spain's Alberto Contador, and American rival Lance Armstrong both skipped the three-week race that ends in Madrid on September 20.


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