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Boonen takes the stage

But his win is overshadowed by Rasmussen revelation

CASTRES, France -- Tom Boonen of Belgium sprinted to his second stage victory in this year's Tour de France in the 12th leg yesterday, when Michael Rasmussen retained his overall lead despite being kicked off the Danish national team for violating drug-testing rules.

Boonen, who wears the green jersey as the best sprinter, clenched his fists in the air after taking the 110.9-mile run from Montpellier to Castres.

The final dash was classic sprinting. Heading the pack for the last half-mile, Boonen's Quick Step Innergetic support riders peeled away one by one, leaving him to burst ahead with 150 yards left and finish in 4 hours 25 minutes 32 seconds.

Boonen said the demanding mountain stages and time trials coming up will make it hard for him to retain the green jersey.

"The Tour's a horrible race," he said. "You have to be masochistic to ride in a race like this."

Erik Zabel of Germany was second. Robert Hunter took third.

Rasmussen finished safely in the trailing pack, as did his biggest challengers for the yellow jersey. The Dane is 2:35 ahead of second-place Alejandro Valverde and 2:39 ahead of Iban Mayo in third.

Yesterday's stage was overshadowed by the Danish cycling federation's announcement late Thursday that Rasmussen had been kicked off the national team.

International rules require riders to keep officials informed of their whereabouts during training, for possible surprise doping tests. The decision means Rasmussen will miss the World Championships in Germany in September, and possibly the Olympics in Beijing next year.

"I do admit that I've committed an administrative error," Rasmussen said. "I have no positive doping tests, and that's it," he said. "This is blown out of proportion."

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