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Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Savoldelli retains Tour de Romandie lead

Associated Press

PAYERNE, Switzerland -- Robbie McEwen of Australia won a mass sprint Wednesday to take the first stage of the Tour de Romandie.

Prologue winner Paolo Savoldelli of Italy remained atop the standings after finishing in the pack with the same time as McEwen in rainy conditions.

McEwen, supported by his Davitamon teammates, covered the 105-mile route that looped back to Payerne in 4 hours, 10.21 seconds. Italy's Mirco Lorenzetto was second with the same time, followed by countryman Daniele Bennati.

Russia's Dmitri Konyshev broke away at the 15-mile mark to build an 11.14-second advantage over the leading peloton after 62 miles. The pack began to close in on the 40-year-old veteran during the hike up the Gruyere.

Konyshev's lead was down to 4:20 with 28 miles to go, and his lead dwindled as the rain began to fall. McEwen caught Konyshev 12.5 miles from the finish, after the Russian had ridden 77 miles by himself.

Jan Ullrich, in his debut race of the season, finished with the pack. The German had finished 90th in the prologue.

Two crashes occurred 27 and 11 miles before the finish line, but no one was seriously injured.

The 106-mile second stage begins and ends in Porrentruy on Thursday.