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Chicchi wins Stage 4 of Amgen Tour of California in tight Modesto finish

Francesco Chicchi, left, of Italy, celebrates after beating out Mark Cavendish, second from left, of Britain, and Juan Jose Haedo, right, of Argentina, to win the fourth stage of the Tour of California cycling race in Modesto, Calif., Wednesday, May 19, 2010. (AP Photo/ Paul Sakuma)
Francesco Chicchi, left, of Italy, celebrates after beating out Mark Cavendish, second from left, of Britain, and Juan Jose Haedo, right, of Argentina, to win the fourth stage of the Tour of California cycling race in Modesto, Calif., Wednesday, May 19, 2010. (AP Photo/ Paul Sakuma) AP

MODESTO -- The move of the Amgen Tour of California from February to May caused a stir in the international cycling world, which wondered how the upstart American race would impact the 93-year-old Giro d'Italia.

Francesco Chicchi flipped the question on Wednesday, as the veteran Italian rider made his own impact on the California race by winning the San Jose-to-Modesto Stage 4 in a frantic final sprint.

"The Giro is the biggest race in Italy, especially for an Italian," Chicchi said through an interpreter.

"But the Tour of California is also important to the team and all the sponsors. I'm very proud to win a stage in America. I love to race hard and win in this country."

Chicchi's charge in the final four blocks down I Street in Downtown Modesto allowed him to hold off Argentina's Juan Jose Haedo and top sprinter Mark Cavendish of England by a hub for his first-ever Tour of California stage victory.

The mass finish of the field, made predictable by the flat final 40 miles after the riders descended the coast range into Patterson, meant there was no change at the top of the overall standings.

David Zabriskie of Salt Lake City retained the yellow jersey of the overall leader and will start today's Visalia-to-Bakersfield Stage 5 with a four-second lead on Michael Rogers of Australia, and a six-second lead on three-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer of Santa Rosa.

"I'm an excited individual," Zabriskie said. "It's great to be able to wear the golden jersey in the Golden State. The hardest part of this race is yet to come."

Lance Armstrong was pushed into a curb during the final downtown lap of the race, but since the accident occurred within 3 kilometers of the finish he was awarded the same finish time as the stage winner.

Before the final downtown laps, the thousands of fans lining the streets almost were treated to an extreme rarity in road racing -- a wire-to-wire winner.

Dutchman Lars Boom was part of a group that led an early break up San Jose's steep Sierra Road within the opening 10 miles. With the help of three other riders, the Boom-led breakaway built leads as large as 6 minutes, 50 seconds.

"It seemed they were playing with us, giving us six minutes of lead," Boom said. "When we still had a one-minute lead with 20k to go, I thought that maybe we might be able to stay in front. But when you're riding alone, away from your team, it's not easy to stay in front."

That 20-kilometer mark came as Boom pedaled alone in front of Central Catholic High School on Carpenter Road, but the margin had dwindled to 40 seconds by the time he came off the Needham overpass to begin the first downtown circuit, and by that point the loss of his lead was inevitable.

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