Zabel ends major tour drought at Vuelta

Erik Zabel proves he can still produce wins in the biggest races as he leads the Vuelta pack into Ca

Erik Zabel proves he can still produce wins in the biggest races as he leads the Vuelta pack into Ca

PIC BY TEAM MILRAM

Erik Zabel won his first stage at a major tour for three years when he led the Vuelta bunch into Caceres on Tuesday afternoon, finishing ahead of race leader Thor Hushovd and Ag2r's Jean-Patrick Nazon. With Alessandro Petacchi still finding his form after a long period out with injury, the German veteran's win, his first at this level since the 2003 Vuelta, was a very timely one.

Hushovd's consolation for his third consecutive bunch sprint defeat was another day in the leader's gold jersey, although that is almost certain to be all it will be as tomorrow's stage finishes at the summit of the super-category Covatilla climb above the town of Bejar.

What was a short but pretty routine day on the Vuelta saw young Relax-Gam rider Raul Garcia de Mateo go clear on his own early on in the blistering Extremaduran heat. The 24 year old was caught 16km from home after being almost eight minutes clear at the mid-stage point. From that point on, although several attempts were made to get clear, notably David Millar for the second day in a row, Milram and Gerolsteiner kept a tight rein on all escapees.

Stage 4, Almendralejo-Caceres

1 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram 136km in 3.24.46
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole
3 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) Ag2r
4 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) CSC
5 Francisco Jos Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval
6 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Franaise des Jeux
7 Andr Greipel (Ger) T-Mobile
8 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
9 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
10 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas

Overall

1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 13.34.59
2 Zabel 0.27
3 O'Grady
4 Ventoso 0.32
5 Bettini 0.34
6 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) CSC 0.39
7 Lars Bak (Den) CSC
8 Nicki Sorensen (Den) CSC
9 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) CSC
10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC

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