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Saturday, 22 July, 2000, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Zabel wins longest day
Sprint to the line
Zabel wins ahead of McEwan (right) and Blijlevens
Erik Zabel has won the longest stage of this year's Tour de France, his first victory in the race for three years.

The German is on the verge of winning a record fifth successive green points jersey, but before this stage had not crossed a finishing line in first since 1997.

On Saturday he emerged triumphant from a bunch sprint at the end of the 254.5km from Belfort to Troyes in western France.


After that three-year drought it's great to get a stage win - it's a big moment for me
Erik Zabel
American Lance Armstrong remains race leader with only a single short ride around Paris on Sunday remaining for the 128 survivors of the marathon event.

They do not include Dutch rider Michael Boogerd, who crashed out during Saturday's action.

Fast chase

Zabel's win followed a traditional breakaway and chase situation, with two Frenchmen and a Pole ahead of the sprinters' teams.

Poland's Gregory Gwiazdowski of La Francaise des Jeux went clear with France's Sebastien Hinault (Credit Agricole) and Francois Simon (Bonjour).

Zabel celebrates
The German's delight was clear after the long wait
The trio's three French squads are among seven who have not won a stage on this year's race.

They were to remain disappointed thanks to the chase of Zabel's team Telekom, who took their first win of the race after four second places shared equally between the sprinter and Jan Ullrich.

The German squad was aided by Farm Frites - whose rider Robbie McEwan was second - and Polti, who placed Jeroen Blijlevens third on a good day for the sprinters.

With 50km remaining the breakaway trio had a lead of almost four minutes, but they were caught under the 5km-to-go banner.

Last chance attack

Local favourite Simon tried a do-or-die attack which lasted until 2km remaining.

Three of the former French champion's elder brothers won Tour stages during professional careers but Francois Simon has never tasted victory in the race.

Bikers look on
The Tour passes through western France
And from then there was a mass charge to the line, with Telekom's Italian rider Gian-Matteo Fagnini providing Zabel with a perfect lead-out.

"After that three-year drought it's great to get a stage win," said the winner.

"It's a big moment for me - a big thank you to my team, who worked very well."

Britain's David Millar finished 93rd, in the same time as the leader, and gained a place in the classification thanks to Boogerd's mishap.

The pace in the main bunch was so high during the chase that the peloton split in two, with echelons forming in crosswinds on the flat plains.

Those who lost contact included some big names - French star Laurent Jalabert, who finished 2'43 down, and Spanish climber Jose Maria Jimenez who finished in a group almost seven minutes down.

Boogerd out

Jimenez fell in the same crash which accounted for Boogerd's hopes of finishing.

The Dutchman, who finished fourth in the 1998 Tour, started the day in 19th place.

The accident in the early part of Saturday's racing caused the Rabobank team leader to fall awkwardly, injuring his face and knee.

He was stretchered away from the roadside.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Simon Brotherton
report's on the longest stage of the tour.
See also:

12 Jul 00 | Tour de France
21 Jul 00 | Tour de France
14 Jul 00 | Tour de France
12 Jul 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
21 Jul 00 | Tour de France
19 Jul 00 | Tour de France
21 Jul 00 | Tour de France
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