|Erik Zabel of Germany won the Paris to Tours classic for the third time on Sunday, edging Italy's Daniele Bennati in a sprint finish. |
As a bunch of riders approached the line, 35-year-old Zabel pulled ahead and held off a strong challenge to beat Bennati by a wheel in a time of 5 hours, 37 minutes, 23 seconds.
Australia's Alan Davis was third, followed by compatriot Robbie McEwen.
Zabel, of the T-Mobile team, won the Paris-Tours race in 1994 and 2003, the year he rode at a record average speed of 29.5 mph.
Sunday's race was the 26th of 27 events on the inaugural UCI Pro Tour calendar.
With around 16.1 miles remaining, Belgian rider Stijn Devolder of the Discovery Channel team led a breakaway with compatriot Philippe Gilbert of the Francaise des Jeux team.
They opened up a lead of 50 seconds and were 18 seconds ahead with just over a mile to go, but could not maintain the pace and were overtaken as the pack turned into the final stretch.
Italy's Alberto Ongarato of the Fassa Bartolo team placed fifth, with Swiss rider Aurelien Clerc of Phonak sixth.
The win gave Zabel 40 points toward his Pro Tour ranking, while Bennati of Lampre-Caffita earned 30, and Liberty Seguros rider Davis 25.
With only one race remaining, Italian rider Danilo di Luca has already clinched the Pro Tour title with 229 points. Belgium's Tom Boonen is second with 171 points and 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich of Germany is third with 140.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, retired from cycling, is fourth with 139 points earned earlier in the season. www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/10/09/sports/s100429D36.DTL