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Sports People: Montana rider stays strong in Giro d’Italia

An unidentified fan dressed as a devil runs ahead of the pack during the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia race, from Bressanone to Mayrhofen, Austria, on Thursday.

An unidentified fan dressed as a devil runs ahead of the pack during the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia race, from Bressanone to Mayrhofen, Austria, on Thursday.

MAYRHOFEN IM ZILLERTAL, Austria – Levi Leipheimer’s chance of winning the Giro d’Italia keeps getting better. Lance Armstrong keeps losing time.

Leipheimer finished in the main pack in Thursday’s sixth stage, with the race crossing into Austria.

Leipheimer, who is from Montana, remained fourth overall, 43 seconds behind leader Danilo Di Luca of Italy.

“I’m happy with how it’s gone so far,” Leipheimer said. “We saw some people who fell away (Wednesday) and some people who were strong, so the picture is more clear now and I’m still in that picture.”

For the third consecutive stage, Armstrong was dropped from the lead group. This time, the seven-time Tour de France winner was undone by a steep downhill run.

Armstrong lost 1:15 and dropped from 22nd to 25th overall, 4:13 behind Di Luca. The Texan returned this season after 3 1/2 years of retirement and broke his collarbone in March.

“I can’t expect to be too strong right now,” he said. “It’s been a complicated preparation. I have to be realistic and just ride my rhythm.”

Italy’s Michele Scarponi of the Diquigiovanni team won the stage after a long breakaway. He covered the 154-mile leg in 5 hours, 49 minutes, 55 seconds. Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway followed, 32 seconds behind.

Allan Davis of Australia was third, also 32 seconds back.

All the favorites – including Di Luca, Ivan Basso and Leipheimer – finished with the main pack, 36 seconds after Scarponi.

Nadal among winners

MADRID – Defending champion Andy Murray, top-ranked Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer advanced to the quarterfinals of the Madrid Open on Thursday.

Andy Roddick advanced after Nikolay Davydenko withdrew with a leg injury. Roddick will next face Federer, who defeated James Blake 6-2, 6-4.

Murray stopped Tommy Robredo 7-5, 6-1, and Nadal moved up after Philipp Kohlschreiber also withdrew with a leg injury. Third-seeded Novak Djokovic defeated Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-4. He will play wild-card Ivan Ljubicic, who rallied for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over 2008 finalist Gilles Simon.

The last time the Federer and Blake met at the Beijing Olympics, Blake ended the Swiss star’s hopes of capturing his first Olympic singles medal.

“We haven’t played since the Olympics and I was pleased with the way it went today, especially with him playing so well recently,” Federer said.

The second-seeded Federer is looking forward to playing the sixth-seeded Roddick on a different surface.

“I’ve played Andy so many times, it’s time we played each other on clay,” Federer said.

Nadal will play Fernando Verdasco, who rallied from a break down in both sets to beat Juan Monaco 7-5, 6-2.

In the women’s draw, top-ranked Dinara Safina overcame a mid-match dip, defeating Lucie Safarova 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals.

So. Miss guard leaving

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Southern Miss basketball guard Jeremy Wise has hired an agent, ending his college career a season early.

The 6-foot-2 point guard averaged 16.7 points and 4.7 assists last season.

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