Germany?s Robert Forster (Gerolsteiner) surprised the big-name sprinters at the Giro d?Italia on Thursday, winning the fifth stage to Frascati near Rome with a late acceleration to the line.

The tight, twisting finish meant Alessandro Petacchi?s lead out trains struggled to control the race in the final kilometres and when Petacchi clashed with Argentina?s Ariel Richeze (Panaria) and Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) opened the door, Forster took advantage to win his second race of 2007.

Hushovd finished second and a furious Petacchi was third, pointing his finger at Richeze.

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) finished in the same time as Forster after a quiet day in the bunch and so retained the overall race lead. His team mates Franco Pellizotti and Andrea Noe are second and third at 26 and 35 seconds.

Forster won the final stage in Milan last year but was proud to have beaten Hushovd and Petacchi.

?My victory in Milan was by first big win but this win is more important because there were more big-name sprinters to beat,? he said.

?Now I?m older and wiser. I had good legs in the final kilometre and took a lot of risks, but had the legs to win the sprint.?

Petacchi complained that the final kilometre of the stage was narrow and dangerous. Forster agreed, but was just happy to have won.

?The finale was very dangerous and I clashed with Danilo Napolitano of the Lampre team. He pushed me towards the barriers but sprinters are like that, we take risks,? he said.

?I defended myself and was the strongest in the final acceleration to the finish line. At Gerolsteiner we don?t have a lead out train like Milram but if I have the legs I know I can win any kind of sprint.?

The sprinters have dominated three of the five stages so far in the 2007 Giro d?Italia but Friday?s 177km sixth stage from Tivoli near Rome to Spoleto in Umbria is more suited to attackers looking for an individual stage victory and perhaps even the pink jersey.

Di Luca promised Liquigas would not chase down breaks, preferring to save his strength for the key mountain stages. The stage includes the climbs of Monte Terminillo, Forca Capistrello and Forca di Cerro before a fast descent to Spoleto and is perfect for a long breakaway by riders who can climb and go the distance.

If Di Luca tries to put one of his Liquigas riders in the break, the stage would be ideal for Britain?s Charly Wegelius.


RESULTS: GIRO D’ITALIA STAGE FIVE

1 Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner 173KM IN 4-17-02
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram
4 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre – Fondital
5 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Predictor – Lotto
6 Alexandre Usov (Blr) AG2r Prévoyance
7 Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Ceramica Panaria – Navigare
8 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
9 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Team CSC
10 Oscar Gatto (Ita) Gerolsteiner
153 Steve Cummings (Gb) Discovery Channel
174 Charly Wegelius (Gb) Liquigas all same time

OVERALL STANDINGS

1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas 18-43-12
2 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 26
3 Andrea Noe’ (Ita) Liquigas 35
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas
5 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 53
6 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre – Fondital 54
7 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 1-03
8 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Astana 1-07
9 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Astana
10 Andrey Mizourov (Kaz) Astana at s.t.

Giro d’Italia: www.gazzetta.it