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O'Grady victory as Voeckler leads


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O'Grady celebrates the second Tour de France stage victory of his career

CHARTRES, France -- Australian Stuart O'Grady won Thursday's fifth stage of the Tour de France as French champion Thomas Voeckler took the race leader's yellow jersey from Lance Armstrong.

O'Grady finished the 200.5-km course from Amiens to Chartres in five hours five minutes 58 seconds to claim the second Tour stage win of his career since 1998.

Dane Jakob Piil was second with Sandy Casar of France third after the trio and Voeckler were part of a five-man group that broke away from the peloton at the 16-km mark.

They were aided by mass crash in the pack midway through the course that slowed down the pursuers.

Five-time champion Lance Armstrong had to give up the yellow jersey as he finished with the peloton, 12:33 minutes adrift of the winner.

He now stands in sixth place, 9:35 minutes behind Voeckler who became French champion the week before the Tour on his 25th birthday.

"We're comfortable with that situation," said Armstrong's team director Johan Bruyneel. "We said we would let breakaways take place and to have the French champion wearing the yellow jersey is ideal.

"We're sure his Brioches La Boulangere team will defend it and it will take pressure off our shoulders."

Voeckler's team chief Jean-Rene Bernaudeau agreed: "You have to respect the yellow jersey. We will defend it as long as we can."

No serious threat

None of the five riders in front of Armstrong in the overall standings represent a serious threat to his ambition to win the Tour de France for a record sixth time.

His most dangerous rivals still trail him in the overall standings, with fellow American Tyler Hamilton down by 36 seconds and German Jan Ullrich 55 seconds adrift.

Four of Armstrong's U.S. Postal teammates were involved in the crash, with Spaniards Manuel Beltran and Jose Luis Rubiera requiring medical treatment before resuming the race.

Both men are crucial to the title-holder's success in the vital mountain stages.

Italian Alessandro Petacchi, who was expected to dominate the sprint finishes, was also taken down in the accident, which occurred just as the pack had begun closing the gap with the breakaway riders.

As Armstrong slowed the peloton down to wait for his fallen teammates, the escapees accelerated, opening up a lead of more than 17 minutes.

Armstrong, who took the overall lead thanks to a great team effort in Wednesday's team time trial, had said he would not defend his yellow jersey so early in the Tour.

After the pile-up, the bunch, led by Armstrong's US Postal team mates was far more cautious as violent side winds and rain made it very dangerous to ride at full speed and chase down the leaders.

There were several more crashes on the slick pavement, but no one was seriously injured.

Friday's sixth stage runs 196 km from Bonneval to Angers and, barring more inclement weather or crashes, should lead to a mass sprint to the finish.

The Tour de France ends July 25 in Paris.


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