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Just like he did at the Tour of Basque Country back in April, and at the Vuelta and Worlds (for the benefit of Alejandro Valverde) last month, Samuel Sanchez made superb use of his superlative downhill skills to win Sunday's Championship of Zurich. The Spaniard finished ?? seconds ahead of a chase group led in by Stuart CSC's O'Grady, with Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) third.
Sanchez attacked on the last of five ascents of the Pfannenstiel, dropping O'Grady, Rebellin, Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) and new world time trial world champion Fabian Cancellara (CSC) on the rain-dampened slopes near the summit. The Euskaltel rider, who honed his downhill skills riding motorbikes as a youngster, pressed home his advantage on the drop back towards the finish, taking advantage of the fact that Rebellin and Boogerd were unlikely to cooperate 100% with the fast-finishing CSC duo of O'Grady and Cancellara.
Although Boogerd did start to cooperate coming into the finish, it was too late for the chasing quartet to pull back the exultant Euskaltel rider, whose victory was his team's first in a major one-day event. Strangely, it also came on the day that the Basque team's erstwhile leader, Iban Mayo, was reported in the Basque media as on the verge of ending his link with the distinctive orange-clad team, instead opting for a new deal in Saunier Duval yellow.
With Sanchez and fellow Vuelta stage-winner Igor Anton emerging as more reliable and less difficult to manage, Euskaltel may feel the loss of the disruptive Mayo is not the setback it would have seemed a couple of years ago.
New world champion and defending Zurich title-holder Paolo Bettini's fell out of contention on the penultimate lap of the race and abandoned going through the start/finish area at the start of the final lap.
1 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 240.9km in 6.03.48
2 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) CSC 0.32
3 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
4 Michael Boogerd (Hol) Rabobank
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) CSC 0.34
6 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Cofidis 1.10
7 Nicki Sorensen (Den) CSC
8 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel
9 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas
10 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick Step
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