Zabel grabs penultimate stage victory
Germany's Erik Zabel has won the ninth stage of the Tour de Suisse cycling race with a sprint finish in Lausanne. Overall victory remains firmly in the reach of Lance Armstrong, though, with the American successfully defending his lead of more than one minute.
Zabel's strong finish ensured the German rider's second stage victory on this year's Tour, following his earlier triumph in Basel.
Just as in Basel, the Deutsche Telekom cyclist was able to celebrate after overhauling a spirited breakaway by a member of Switzerland's Phonak team.
In Basel, it had been Lukas Zumsteg who escaped the pack only to be hauled back in on the final stretch. In Lausanne it was the turn of his team-mate Bert Grabsch.
The Swiss team's German rider broke clear after just 30 kilometres on Thursday, leading the pack over the category two Col des Mosses climb in conditions that varied from blazing sunshine to hailstones and thunderstorms.
But misfortune struck with just over 50 kilometres remaining when Grabsch had to wait for a train to clear a level crossing in Bulle.
After stopping for more than 30 seconds, Grabsch resumed his attack but the damage had been done. The Phonak man was finally overtaken with 12 kilometres to go, and was forced to watch from the pack as Zabel sprinted to glory ahead of Lithuania's Saulius Ruskys and Australia's Robert McEwen.
Armstrong and the rest of the race's stars were content to stick with the pack, the American holding on to an overall lead which will make Thursday's final circuit around Lausanne no more than a lap of honour for the double Tour de France winner.
by Mark Ledsom, Lausanne
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