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Cipollini takes first stage of the Tour de Romandie

Italy's Mario Cipollini has won the first stage of the Tour de Romandie. He finished the punishing 225-kilometre course in just under six and a half hours. Switzerland's Markus Zberg finished fourth.

Cipollini finished the course between Locarno and Le Bouveret in six hours, 28 minutes and 19 seconds. In second place was Fabrizio Guidi, also an Italian. He was followed by Tayeb Braikia of Denmark.

Because of time allowances, the top spots in the overall standings were largely unaffected by the first stage of the race. Cipollini's victory puts him in second place overall, but Italy's Paolo Savoldelli remains in the lead, following his victory in Tuesday's prologue race in Locarno.

The top-placed Swiss rider is Roland Meier in 13th place. He finished a lowly 57th in the first stage, but since he took 13th spot in the prologue his standing is unchanged.

The next best placed Swiss is Niki Aebersold in 18th position, followed by Daniel Schnider in 21st. Despite Zberg's healthy showing in the first stage he is in 45th place overall. Last year's champion, France's Laurent Jalabert, is 50th.

The first stage has given the riders a taste of what lies ahead. The competitors face a gruelling route taking in 825 kilometres, including five punishing climbs.

swissinfo and agencies

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