Sports Digest: Cycling

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The Independent Online
The German rider Erik Zabel won the first stage of the Tour of Valencia yesterday after holding off compatriot Marcel Wust at the end of a tough uphill sprint. Zabel had appeared to be fading but found new life in the final few metres. The pair had found some breathing space going into the long, final straight and were able to finish clear of the chasing pack led in by Italy's Mario Traversoni. The Tour continues on Wednesday with a 163-km stage between Calpe and Valldigna. The leg includes one second category and five third category climbs, including the Alta de la Drova hill shortly before the finish. The mountains will prove a challenge to Zabel who last year sprinted to victory in the first stage of the Tour of Andalucia and held on against the odds to win the race.

The American Chad Gerlach won the seventh stage of the 1998 Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia yesterday but the Italian Andrea Tafi remains the Tour's overall leader. Gerlach's frantic sprint in the final 100 metres gave him the edge over Australian Peter Rogers and Filipino Carlo Jasul, who took second and third places, respectively. All three recorded Gerlach's winning time of 3 hours 53 minutes and 58 seconds. The seventh stage, which was held in the southern state of Johor, covered a distance of 176km.

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