Sun, Sep 09, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Zabel wins Vuelta stage, Efimkin stays in first place overall

AP , ZARAGOZA, SPAIN

German cyclist Erik Zabel won a sprint finish to take the seventh stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Friday, while Vladimir Efimkin retained the overall lead.

Discovery Channel rider Allan Davis raised his arms after crossing the line with Zabel, but the Team Milram sprinter had edged ahead in the last meter to take the 176.3km stage in 3 hours, 52 minutes, 55 seconds.

"I went to the team bus and was watching the finish on TV when I heard the commentators say I had won," Zabel said.

Quick Step Innergetic rider Paolo Bettini, Koldo Fernandez of Euskatel-Euskadi and T-Mobile's Andre Korff rounded out the top five, all getting the same time.

Efimkin, who rides for Caisse d'Epargne, kept his 1:06 lead over countryman Denis Menchov of Rabobank and will wear the leader's gold jersey for a fourth straight stage with an overall time of 28:26:56.

"It's not going to be easy, but I'll go to the time trial feeling good because I'm motivated to hang on to the gold jersey," Efimkin said.

Zabel, who admitted in May to using the blood-booster EPO in the 1990s on his way to winning a record six straight green jerseys as the Tour de France's top sprinter, was among a group of sprinters nearly seven minutes behind the leading pack two-thirds through the stage.

"I thought my career was finished. So that makes every victory now much more special," Zabel said in reference to his admission.

On a tight bend nearly 2km to the finish, several sprinters had to pull back after a group of riders crashed as a result of roadworks that were being performed. The 37-year-old Zabel avoided the pileup before setting himself up for the late sprint.

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