Ventoso triumphs in crash-marred Giro sprint

Spain's Francisco Ventoso claimed victory in the ninth stage of the Giro d'Italia in a sprint finish on Monday, with Canada's Ryder Hesjedal holding onto the leader's pink jersey.

British world champion Mark Cavendish was unable to take part in the sprint after being involved in a crash on the last bend.

With 400 metres remaining, Italy's Filippo Pozzato collided with the Australian ace Matt Goss, bringing both men down and forcing Cavendish to take evasive action but without apparently injuring himself.

Pozzato, the leader of the Farnese Vini team, apologised for causing the crash.

"It was my fault," Pozzato told Italian television channel RAI.

"I was scared when Goss turned into the last bend and I touched the brakes. I apologise for causing the crash.

"I hope that Goss, who's a friend, and the other riders have no serious injuries. I hurt my side and I can't move one of my wrists, but I don't intend to withdraw."

Ventoso pipped Italians Fabio Felline and Giacomo Nizzolo on the line at the end of a flat 166km stage punctuated by occasional rain showers.

Ventoso, 30, was celebrating his second career stage win in the Giro, having won a stage in last year's renewal in the same region of Italy.

"In the early sprints I found it tough to stay up at the front, because the peloton is very compact and the risks are greater," he said.

"However, after a week, when the first one has been so tough as it has been in this Giro, things change.

"Realising this, I decided to save my energy for the second week.

"In the final sprint I wasn't in a very good position but when the crash occurred I saw that I could benefit from it and I launched my effort."

Earlier in the stage a three-man breakaway of Pierre Cazaux, Martin Keizer and Brian Bulgac made a bid to pull away shortly after the departure from Giorgio del Sannio, but the Sky-led peloton managed to keep their advantage below five minutes.

Dutchman Keizer pulled away from his companions with 30km remaining but he was reeled in 17km from the finish.

In the final stages, Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez -- 8sec behind Hesjedal in second place in the overall standings -- tried to steal a march on his rivals, but with no success.

Ventoso, 30, claimed his second Giro success after a previous stage win in nearby Fiuggi last year.

Tuesday's 10th stage is a 186km ride from Civitavecchia to Assisi, which finishes with two short climbs in the closing 3,500 metres.

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