Boasson Hagen wins Giro seventh stage

CHIAVENNA, Italy -- Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway won the rainy seventh stage of the Giro d'Italia on Friday, beating four riders in a sprint finish on a slippery road.

Danilo Di Luca of Italy kept the overall leader's pink jersey, with most of the favorites staying with the main pack to avoid accidents as the race left Austria and returned to Italy. Lance Armstrong finished 142nd, 58 seconds behind, and lost another 18 seconds to the overall leaders.

Boasson Hagen, who rides for Team-Columbia-High Road and is Norway's national time trial champion, covered the 152 miles in 5 hours, 56 minutes, 53 seconds. Robert Hunter of South Africa was second and Pavel Brutt of Russia was third, both with the same time as Boasson Hagen. The main pack was 40 seconds behind.

Overall results were calculated 1.86 miles from the finish to let riders not interested in contesting the sprint avoid falls on the slick surface.

Di Luca, the 2007 Giro winner, maintained a five-second lead on Thomas Lovkvist in the overall standings, with Michael Rogers third, 36 seconds back. Armstrong's Astana teammate Levi Leipheimer remained fourth overall, 43 seconds behind. Armstrong stayed 25th, but his gap behind Di Luca increased to 4:31.

Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France champion, returned this season after 3½ years of retirement and is still regaining his form after surgery in March for a broken collarbone.

Eight of the nine Astana riders protested the Kazakhstan squad's lack of salary payments by wearing faded jerseys so the sponsor names could not be seen.

"It's definitely not a good sign," Di Luca said. "It's the richest team in the world and the team that spends the most. ... Maybe they'll find a new sponsor or maybe Armstrong will take over the team."

Boasson Hagen finished second to Michele Scarponi in Thursday's stage and won the prestigious Ghent-Wevelgem this season.

"I like the classics, but it's special to win at the Giro. This is my first [big] tour," said Boasson Hagen, whose victory in Belgium also came in the rain. "I don't like it when it rains because it's cold, but I ride well."

The stage began in Innsbruck, Austria, crossed through Switzerland past the St. Moritz ski resort and concluded with a steep and dangerous downhill run made even trickier by the rain. Riders covered up with gloves and jackets to keep warm, with the temperature falling to 45 degrees at one point.

"It was really dangerous on all the corners," Boasson Hagen said. "I'm glad we stayed upright."

Four riders -- Bartosz Huzarski, Mauro Facci, Sergei Klimov and Vladimir Isaichev -- broke away at the start and gained a nine-minute lead after only 15 miles.

The breakaway riders were caught on the climb to the Maloja pass after nearly 125 miles. Lorenzo Bertolini attacked on the descent toward the Italian border, but Boasson Hagen, Hunter, Brutt and Davide Vigano caught up and set up a sprint.

Stage 8 on Saturday is a 130-mile leg from Morbegno to Bergamo, near Milan. The race ends May 31 in Rome.