Zülle stretches lead in Tour of Spain
The Swiss cyclist, Alex Zülle, has extended his lead in the Tour of Spain, following a dramatic fifth stage from the town of Albacete to the towering peak of Xorret de Cati which was marked by heavy rain at times.
In a gripping finale to the 152-kilometre stage, the veteran Italian rider Fabio Roscioli attempted a brave breakaway, but the 35-year-old's legs gave out just moments from the end. Zülle's Banesto teammate, Eladio Jimenez, raced past to win the stage, closely followed by fellow Spaniard, Roberto Heras, and Zülle himself.
The St Gallen rider's third-place finish was particularly impressive considering the weather conditions. As heavy rain lashed the course, a number of cyclists took tumbles on the slippery tarmac. Last year's Tour winner, Jan Ullrich, kept to his saddle but lost more ground, after finishing 31 seconds behind Zülle.
The Swiss rider is now more than a minute ahead of the second placed cyclist overall, Spain's Abraham Olano.
The closing stages may have been exciting but the most explosive events occurred before the stage had even got underway. After claiming that the Spanish rider Francisco Cerezo had insulted him during Tuesday's fourth stage, Italy's Mario Cipollini decided to settle the matter with his fists.
Cerezo had to be treated with three stitches after the Italian punched him during the race preliminaries. Cipollini was immediately banned from the race and looks likely to face further disciplinary action by his employers.
According to a Saeco team statement, Cipollini has been suspended for an indefinite period. The statement added that his action was "far from the style of behaviour demanded of the team and seriously damaging to the team's image."
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