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Aussie Groves sprints to second straight Vuelta victory

EPA PHOTO

Kaden Groves has sprinted into cycling history, becoming the first Australian to win a stage of the Vuelta a Espana while wearing the points leader's green jersey as he made it back-to-back triumphs in the Spanish Grand Tour.

The soaring Queenslander took a former grip on the sprinter's prize by holding off a formidable long sprint from Italian superstar Filippo Ganna to take his second win in successive days in the eastern Spanish town of Burriana on Wednesday.

Though the final Grand Tour of the year may not contain the strongest field of sprinters, Groves once again showed he's clearly the best of the bunch as he made light of his hot favourite's tag on the 186.5km fifth stage from Morella.

"It's a fantastic feeling, the second win of this Vuelta, and two in a row, it's a great feeling, especially doing it in the green jersey," said the 24-year-old from Gympie, who followed his victory in Tuesday's fourth stage from Andorra la Vella to Tarragona by again demonstrating why he's a growing force in the sport..

Positioned superbly by his Alpecin-Deceuninck teammates, Groves always looked in control of his fourth Grand Tour win as he made his move for home exactly at the right time to repel the challenge of the fast-finishing time trial specialist Ganna, making sure of his win with a 'bike-throw' thrust at the line.

For the second straight day, Groves had prevailed despite a crash ruling out key teammates in the denouement.

"We had a crash, lost two guys in a crash at a roundabout with about two-and-a-half kilometres to go, but luckily my lead out man was still there and we could get it organised for the final," said Groves, who also won a stage at the season's opening Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia.

He also picked up some extra points in a late intermediate sprint during which he was happy to let overall race leader and defending champion Remco Evenepoel win while the Australian made minimum effort in picking up second place.

"He (Evenepoel) wanted the time bonus and I actually agreed with the team not to go for it, but in the end I felt I could get points without spending too much energy so in the end I took second which is also good for the points classification," said Groves, who now leads the competition by 60 points from Italy's Andrea Vendrame (AG2R-Citroen).

Belgium's Evenepoel retained his leader's red jersey with the time bonus increasing his overall advantage over Spain's Enric Mas to 11 seconds, with France's Lenny Martinez 17 seconds back and Evenepoel's two major challengers, Jumbo-Visma's Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic, 37 and 43 seconds in arrears.

"Taking the bonus seconds was not necessarily the plan but we were in front and I saw an opportunity, that's why I just went for it," said Evenepoel.

"It was a nice one to grab. I thought it was just three seconds but in the end they told me it was six, so it's pretty nice."

Groves was happy to take advantage of relatively rare opportunities for the sprinters during this lumpy edition of La Vuelta before Thursday's demanding sixth stage, featuring nearly 4000 metres of climbing and culminating in a mountain-top finish at Javalambre.