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Boonen Increases His Lead

July 07, 2006|From the Associated Press

CAEN, France — Tom Boonen added to his overall lead in the Tour de France by finishing second in the fifth stage Thursday, although the Belgian world champion is feeling the strain of wearing the yellow jersey.

He was runner-up to Spain's Oscar Freire, the three-time former world champion who prevailed in a closing sprint.

Boonen increased his lead by earning bonus time, and he will be the front-runner for the third consecutive day during today's sixth stage.

Freire also benefited from bonus time, jumping from 20th to third overall. World time-trial champion Michael Rogers of Australia is still second, 13 seconds behind Boonen, with Freire another four seconds back. George Hincapie of the United States slipped from third to fourth, also 17 seconds behind Boonen.

Freire, of the Rabobank squad, accelerated sharply in the last 300 yards, sprinting up the right side of the finishing straightaway for his second stage victory in three Tours.

"It wasn't the way that I'm used to sprinting. I usually stay in other riders' wheels and wait until the last second," he said. But this time "what I needed to do was to take the initiative."

All 172 remaining riders started the mostly flat, 140-mile route from Beauvais, north of Paris. There were several crashes along the route, but all of the riders finished.

After several hot days of racing, the weather cooled slightly, with rain on the route.

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