ZABEL WINS TOUR OF SWITZERLAND SPRINT
Erik Zabel (Milram) used some clever team tactics and a fast finish to win the second stage of the Tour of Switzerland in Lucerne on Sunday.
The 36 year-old from Berlin let rival Daniele Bennati (Lampre) move in and take the wheel of his team mate Alberto Ongarato and then Ongarato sat up early, forcing Bennati to lead out the sprint. With a headwind also a factor, Zabel waited for the final 50 metres of the sprint and then perfectly timed his sprint to win by a few niches at the line.
Stage one time trial winner Fabian Cancellara (CSC) finished an impressive third in the sprint and so retained his overall race lead thanks to the four-second time bonus. Spain’s Jose Ivan Gutierrez is third at 15 seconds.
It was Zabel’s third sprint victory since admitting in May that he took the banned blood boosting drug Erythropoietin in 1996. While fellow Telekom riders have been condemned for doping, Zabel once again was given a huge cheer by the Swiss crowd.
“It’s been difficult in the last few weeks but I’ve always won races and it helps me a lot at the moment,” Zabel said after his win.
“The final climbs made it a tough stage even if it wasn’t that long. I have to thank my team mate Alberto Ongarato because he gave me a perfect lead out after we avoided the crash. I let Bennati take Ongarato’s wheel with 500 metres to go and then he cleverly moved over early forcing Bennati to lead out the sprint. There was a slight headwind and so I waited until the final 50 metres before jumping past him.”
The 157km stage was characterised by a lone attack by Switzerland’s Pascal Hungerbuhler of the Volksbank team. He opened a four minute lead at one point but was caught 20km from the finish. Three other riders attacked on the final climb but they were swept up with five kilometres to go. A crash in the final kilometre split the main field but Zabel and other sprinters were not affected.
Monday’s 228.7km third stage is from Brunnen to Nauders in Austria. It is the longest stage of the nine-day Swiss race and includes the 2383m high Fluelapass and the 1405 metre high Norbertshohe climb just two kilometres from the finish.