Tour de Suisse 5: Albasini notches another for Columbia

Valjavec leads race by 14 seconds

Swiss rider Michael Albasini (Columbia) team won the 202km Stage 5 of the Tour of Switzerland Wednesday, from Staefa in Switzerland to Serfaus in Austria.

Slovenian Tadej Valjavec of the AG2R team retained the race lead, even managing to drop his biggest rival on Wednesday - Luxembourg's Andy Schleck - down the overall standings.

Valjavec now leads Swiss rider Oliver Zaugg, of Liquigas, by 14 seconds with four stages remaining.

Olympic time trial champion Fabian Cancellara of Saxo-Bank -- race leader from the opening time trial through Tuesday's finish -- battled hard in the closing few hundred metres to close the gap to Albasini, but the big Swiss could only finish runner-up.

Italian Damiano Cunego of Lampre took third place as the 28-year-old Albasini grabbed his second stage win of the race, after his maiden win here in 2005, to make it an impressive 38 wins this season for Columbia.

"I had to push myself hard to win, but it was worth it to win the hardest stage of the race," Albasini said. "I didn't know the climbs at all, either, because it's a long way from my home in Switzerland.

"Fortunately I was able to get on Fabian Cancellara's wheel when he went for another rider who'd already attacked in the last kilometre."

Albasini added: "I've been targeting this race since the beginning of May, because this is my home race and so obviously it's a big goal for me. Winning here in Switzerland is always special for a Swiss rider."

The leaders were among the main pack which earlier caught up with a rogue pair who had sped in front on the descent from the 1,793 metre Arbergpas, then over the border into Austria.

On the final incline up to the the finish line here, Germany's Tony Martin of Columbia attacked on several occasions, but he was soon overhauled, as was Estonian Rein Taaramae of Cofidis after his late surge to the front.

The racers are back in Switzerland for Thursday's sixth stage, a 177km ride from Oberriet to Bad Zurzach.

© 2009 AFP

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