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Di Luca triumphs in Giro d'Italia

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MILAN, Italy -- Danilo Di Luca wrapped up overall victory in the Giro d'Italia on Sunday as he safely negotiated the final stage in Milan which was won by star sprinter Alessandro Petacchi.

The Liquigas rider finished in the bunch to maintain his one minute 55 second advantage over 21-year-old revelation Andy Schleck of Luxembourg with fellow Italian Eddy Mazzoleni in third, two minutes 25 seconds adrift.

"Winning the Giro d'Italia is the biggest possible achievement for any Italian rider and I'm especially proud to be the first rider from central Italy to have won it," Di Luca told reporters.

"For every Italian the Giro is the most beautiful race in the world and it's difficult to describe what it feels like to win it. I've been racing since I was eight years old and winning the Giro is a dream come true."

Petacchi of the Milram team was claiming his fifth stage win in this year's Giro after the Italian fractured his kneecap in the 2006 race.

He proved comfortably the fastest in the mass sprint after 185 kilometers from Vestone.

Gilberto Simoni, a two-time winner of the race, finished fourth overall ahead of Damiano Cunego, who won in 2004.

Simoni's performance was crowned by winning the 17th stage up Monte Zoncolan, one of the steepest climbs in cycling, but he could not match Di Luca's consistent performances on all the key mountain stages.

Leonardo Piepoli, 35, took the green jersey for best climber in the Giro.

Petacchi, who won the points classification, relegated Argentina's Maximiliano Richeze and world and Olympic champion Paolo Bettini to the minor placings on the final stage.

Petacchi has now won 24 stages in the race in total but still short of the 42 of compatriot Mario Cipollini.

Di Luca and his team controlled the race from the start in Sardinia, as they won the team time trial and he claimed two decisive stage victories.

He succeeded compatriot Ivan Basso, who did not start because of his involvement in the Operation Puerto blood-doping scandal, and became the 11th successive Italian victor in the race, the longest sequence since the second world war.


Di Luca gets his hands on the coveted Giro d'Italia trophy.

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