Italy?s Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) and South Africa?s Robert Hunter (Barloworld) both celebrated sprint wins on Friday afternoon.

Bennati won the opening stage of the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto in the south of Tuscany, while Hunter won the fourth stage of the Tour Méditerranéen near Marseille in the south of France.

Bennati beat Denis Galimzyanov (Team Katusha) and Italian neo-pro Michele Merlo (Barloworld) to win his second sprint of the new season. Bennati was expecting a battle with Alessandro Petacchi (LPR) in the sprint finish but Petacchi crashed 16km from the finish and was taken to hospital for a check-up.

Hunter took his first victory of 2009 ahead of Spain?s Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne) and Finland?s Jussi Veikkanen (Francaise des Jeux) after 135km of racing. Thanks to a time bonus for third place, Sanchez is the new race leader.

The Tour Méditerranéen finishes on Sunday with the climb to the finish at the summit of Mont Faron, where Dan Martin (Garmin), Chris Froome and Steve Cummings (both Barloworld) are expected to fight for the stage win.

The three-day Giro della Provincia di Grosseto continues over the weekend with two hilly stages in the Maremma hills.

More later…

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