Cycling: O'Grady has final say

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THE LONGEST day of the Prutour, 132 miles from Swansea to Birmingham, was also the slowest. The stage winner, Stuart O'Grady crossed the finishing line in Cannon Hill Park 45 minutes down on schedule after averaging just 23.20 mph for the five-hour journey.

While O'Grady celebrated his first success of the race, a dozen riders were extricating themselves from the car park having taken the wrong route in a hectic run-in to the finish. The race leader, Benoit Joachim of Luxembourg, was caught up in the confusion but he retained the red jersey of leadership as the mishap occurred in the final kilometre so he was given the same time as the main pack.

After three hard days, the overall leaders were content to sit in the peloton for much of the stage while four breakaway riders built up a big lead.

The attack was led by last year's tour winner, O'Grady, his fellow Australian, Jay Sweet, and the Danes Jacob Rasmussen and Martin Lauersen. Their lead over the main field grew to 19 minutes, and with Joachim's lead threatened, his US Postal Service team finally started to give chase.

O'Grady and Rasmussen dropped Sweet and Lauersen in the closing miles, which saw the main pack reduce its deficit to 5min 23sec. Joachim leads by only two seconds ahead of today's sixth stage, from Liverpool to Blackpool.

Results, Digest, page 28