Green marvel Zabel wins Normandy leg

7th sprint title possible

Armstrong stays in third

Tour De France

July 13, 2002|By Bonnie DeSimone | Bonnie DeSimone,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ALENCON, France - Erik Zabel's fellow riders can only be green with envy.

Zabel, a favorite to extend his record and win his seventh consecutive green jersey as the Tour de France's top sprint specialist, prevailed in yesterday's rolling Stage 6 after falling short in a couple of previous attempts this week.

With Jan Ullrich vacationing in semi-disgrace in Florida, recuperating from an injured knee and a pair of humiliating busts for drunken driving and illicit amphetamine use, the German Zabel is Team Telekom's default leader.

"It's been clear from the beginning of the Tour that there was a certain amount of pressure on me because of Jan Ullrich's absence," Zabel said. "That's why I'm happy we have a team that works extraordinarily well together."

Under heavy, gray skies and occasional light rain in Normandy, the riders streaked through quaint villages dotted with the region's traditional half-timbered houses and geraniums spilling from windowsills.

Spain's ONCE team successfully defended the yellow jersey, chasing down breakaways to keep the overall lead in Igor Gonzalez Galdeano's hands. U.S. Postal stayed in the hunt, protecting Lance Armstrong's position in third place, 7 seconds off the pace.

At the finish, Zabel staved off what has become a routine late charge from Australia's Robbie McEwen and Spain's Oscar Freire to take his 12th career stage win in the 123.9-mile endurance test.

The victory tied Zabel, 32, for the lead among active riders with defending champion Armstrong and flamboyant Mario "The Lion King" Cipollini. The overall record, 34, is held by five-time champion Eddy Merckx.

The peloton is down to 185 riders. Lotto's Rik Verbrugghe did not start due to injuries incurred in a crash Thursday, and Alexandr Shefer of Alessio wiped out on a sharp right-hand turn and was taken from the course by ambulance.

Bonnie DeSimone is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.


Sixth stage

(123.69-mile course from Forges-les-Eaux) 1. Erik Zabel, Germany, Telekom, 4 hours, 23 minutes, 7 seconds.

2. Oscar Freire, Spain, Mapei, same time.

3. Robbie McEwen, Australia, Lotto, same time.

4. Jan Svorada, Czech Republic, Lampre, same time.

5. Sergei Ivanov, Russia, Fassa Bortolo, same time.

6. Baden Cooke, Australia, Francaise des Jeux, same time.

7. Thor Hushovd, Norway, Credit Agricole, same time.

8. Laurent Brochard, France, Jean Delatour, same time.

9. Arvis Piziks, Lithuania, CSC-Tiscali, same time.

10. Andrej Hauptman, Slovenia, Tacconi, same time.

11. Paolo Bossoni, Italy, Tacconi, same time.

12. Mauro Radaelli, Italy, Tacconi, same time.

13. Francois Simon, France, Bonjour, same time.

14. Stefano Casagranda, Italy, Alessio, same time.

15. Jose Enrique Gutierrez, Spain, Kelme, same time.

16. Stuart O'Grady, Australia, Credit Agricole, same time. Also 36. Igor Gonzalez Galdeano, Spain, Once, same time.

42. Levi Leipheimer, United States, Rabobank, same time.

43. Fred Rodriguez, United States, Domo-Farm Frites, same time.

72. Lance Armstrong, United States, U.S. Postal, same time.

94. Joseba Beloki, Spain, Once, same time.

Overall standings

1. Gonzalez Galdeano, 23:29:03.

2. Beloki, 4 seconds behind.

3. Armstrong, :07.

4. Jorg Jaksche, Germany, Once, :12.

5. Abraham Olano, Spain, Once, :22.

6. Roberto Heras, Spain, U.S. Postal, :25.

7. Isidro Nozal, Spain, Once, :27.

8. Jose Azevedo, Portugal, Once, :28.

9. George Hincapie, United States, U.S. Postal, :28.

10. Marcos Serrano, Spain, Once, :30.

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