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Zuelle Keeps Tour de Suisse Lead

June 26, 2002

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LYSS, Switzerland (AP) _ Sprint specialist Erik Zabel won the next-to-last stage of the Tour de Suisse on Wednesday as Alex Zuelle held on to the race’s overall lead.

Zabel, who also finished first in the second stage, won a sprint to the line at the end of the 141-mile eighth stage from Vevey.

He completed the long stage in 5 hours, 45 minutes and 53 seconds, ahead of German compatriot Sven Teutenberg, and Andrej Hauptmann of Slovenia.

Zuelle, the local fan favorite, finished safely in the pack to hold on to the leader’s yellow jersey going into Thursday’s final stage.

Zabel’s victory came thanks to the efforts of his Telekom team, which spent hours patiently chasing down a three-man breakaway that at one point had a lead of more than eight minutes over the field.

The three _ Italian Salvatore Commesso, Australian Matt Wilson and Leif Hoste of Belgium _ broke away after 49 miles. Commesso held out the longest, but was chased down by the field in the race’s final miles.

Zuelle is the favorite to hold on when the race concludes Thursday with a 21.6-mile time trial from Lyss to Biel. He is being closely followed by fellow Swiss Laurent Dufaux and Poland’s Piotr Wadecki.

``I am a time-trial specialist, but it is always dangerous to have two riders within a few seconds of you,″ Zuelle said.

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