Spaniard Samuel Sanchez wins cycling gold

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{image-samuel sanchez_09082008.jpg}Beijing, Aug 9: Samuel Sanchez Spain won gold in a thrilling men's cycling road race at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday.

Sanchez completed the 245km race with a time of 6 hours, 23 minutes, 49 seconds, winning a furious sprint to the finish line with just 50 meters remaining. The Spaniard held off silver medalist Davide Rebellin of Italy and Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara, who both finished with the same time as Sanchez. The gold medal run was aided by the overall performance of an immensely experienced Spanish team that also included this year's Tour de France winner, Carlos Sastre, as well as last year's Tour champion Alberto Contador.

"There were only five of us on the team," said Sanchez. "We were all at the front working as a unit. I was saving my legs for the final lap. It's like a victory for all of us."

The 30-year-old Sanchez finished seventh at the Tour de France this summer.

Rebellin picked up the silver for Italy on his 37th birthday. His countryman Paolo Bettini came into the race as the favorite after winning gold in this event four years ago in Athens and was the two-time defending road race world champion. Bettini finished a disappointing 18th in Saturday's competition.

Cancellara's bronze medal finish was something of a surprise as he is known better as a sprinter. The Swiss cyclist is the two-time defending world champion in the time trial for Switzerland and is considered to be one of the favorites to take gold in that event in Beijing.

Levi Leipheimer had the best result for the United States, finishing 11th with a time of 6:24.09. Christian Vande Velde was the next American to finish as he came in 17th with a time of 6:24:19. George Hincapie came in 40th for the U.S.

American David Zabriskie dropped out of the race with five laps left. Zabriskie didn't race in the Tour de France this summer after breaking his back at the Giro d'Italia in May.

The race began with a 78.8km trek that started at Yongdingmen Gate in Central Beijing. Cyclists then traveled north through the city en route to the Great Wall. Once at China's famous landmark, the cyclists raced seven laps on a 23.8km course that ran between the Badaling section of the Wall and Juyong Pass, where the finish line was located.

This year's road race marked the first time in Olympic history that the start area was in a different place than the finish line.

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