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Sunday, September 5, 2004
Petacchi wins second stage of Spanish Vuelta

Associated Press

BURGOS, Spain -- Alessandro Petacchi sprinted to victory Sunday in the second stage of the Spanish Vuelta, and Max van Heeswijk of the U.S. Postal Service team took the overall lead in the year's last major European cycling race.

Petacchi, the Italian captain of the Fassa Bortolo team, beat Germany's Erik Zabel and Spain's Oscar Freire in the 128-mile ride from Leon to Burgos, finishing in 5 hours, 2 minutes and 4 seconds.

U.S. Postal, competing without Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, won Saturday's team time trial and features riders in the first seven positions in the overall standings. Van Heeswijk claimed the yellow jersey from teammate Floyd Landis.

Other top finishers in the stage -- the longest in this year's 59th edition _ included Stuart O'Grady of Australia, Pedro Horrillo of Spain and Antonio Cruz of the United States.

Van Heeswijk, two seconds ahead of Benoit Joahim, capitalized on time bonuses awarded to sprint finishers. Monday's third stage will be another good opportunity for sprinters, a 98-mile leg from Burgos to Soria.

The Vuelta -- one of the three main European cycling tours along with the Giro and Tour de France -- is a final preparation for next month's world road cycling championships.