Stage 1 winner Bennati crashes as Freire grabs Tour of Spain lead

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain -- Oscar Freire of Spain, a three-time world champion, won the second stage of the Spanish Vuelta in a sprint finish Sunday and took the overall lead.

Opening stage winner Daniele Bennati crashed near the finish.

Freire, who rides for Rabobank, captured the 92-mile leg in 3 hours, 31 minute, 3 seconds. He finished second in Saturday's opening stage and has an overall time of 7:14.12.

"Yesterday, I didn't feel well throughout and it showed. Today was a much better performance and I'm really happy with it," Freire said. "The objective was to win one stage. ... I've done that so I don't feel any more pressure to win any more."

Paolo Bettini of Quick Step-Innergetic finished second with the same time, ahead of Cofidis' Leonardo Duque and sprint specialist Erik Zabel of Team Milram.

Zabel, who admitted in May to using the blood-booster EPO in the
1990s on his way to winning a record six straight green jerseys as the Tour de France's fastest sprinter, trails Freire for the overall lead with the same time.

Bennati was among six riders to crash 1.2 miles from the finish line. The Italian exchanged heated words with Euskatel-Euskadi rider Koldo Fernandez as the two rode side-by-side to the finish. Bennati crossed the finish line 186th in the same time and dropped to 89th overall.

Vuelta favorite and 2006 Tour runner-up Oscar Pereiro also found
himself alongside Bennati after the accident and was among a pack of 20 riders that was held up as a result.

Monday's third stage begins in Viveiro before crossing into the
neighboring province of Asturias. The three-week Vuelta covers 2,045 miles and is cycling's most important race after the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia.