Originally created 07/08/06

Australian jumps into second spot



VITRE, France - Robbie McEwen of Australia won the sixth stage of the Tour de France on Friday - the sprinter's third stage victory in this race - while Tom Boonen of Belgium kept the overall lead.

McEwen consolidated his lead in the green-jersey competition for sprinters by winning the final dash to the line in the 117-mile race through Normandy. He has won 11 stages in nine Tours.

The Davitamon-Lotto cyclist was timed in 4 hours, 10 minutes, 17 seconds on the run from Lisieux to Vitre, in northwest Brittany, averaging 28 mph.

Italy's Daniele Bennati - his left thigh still painful after a crash Thursday - was second, with Boonen third. They had the same time as McEwen, whose win vaulted him to second overall, 12 seconds behind Boonen.

"It's fantastic," McEwen said. "I had not imagined three stages in the first week."

McEwen again praised teammate Gert Steegmans, who led him into the final sprints, likening the Belgian to France's sleek, high-speed trains.

"I'm the only one with a ticket and I just have to get off at my station," McEwen said, referring to Steegmans' role as his setup rider. "When he started, I really had to jump to go with him, and if I really have to jump to go with somebody in the wheel, it means that nobody can probably follow."

Boonen, the Quickstep star still winless in this Tour, will wear the race leader's yellow jersey for a fourth straight day in the first long time trial today. That race against the clock should provide an indication of the favorites.

World time-trial champion Michael Rogers of Australia, David Millar of Britian and David Zabriskie, George Hincapie and Floyd Landis - all of the United States - will be looking to make their mark.


Friday's stage


Stage: The sixth stage was a 117-mile ride from Lisieux across Normandy into the small town of Vitre in northwest France.


Winner: Australia's Robbie McEwen (below) in 4 hours, 10 minutes, 17 seconds. Daniele Bennati of Italy was second, and Belgium's Tom Boonen was third - joining 144 other riders in a pack with the same time as McEwen.


Yellow Jersey: Boonen retained the leader's shirt for a fourth day in a row.


Quote of the Day: "We haven't seen the leaders yet. Aside from the sprinters, they have all been playing hide-and-seek." - Phonak team manager Jacques Michaud


Next stage: oday's important stage is a 32-mile individual time trial from Saint-Gregoire to Rennes in Brittany. Race favorites are expected to emerge.