Fabian Cancellara has won bronze in the men's cycling road race in Beijing, securing Switzerland's first medal on the first day of the Olympic Games.This content was published on August 9, 2008 - 11:54
The reigning world time trial champion finished in third place behind Spain's Samuel Sanchez who took gold and Davide Rebellin from Italy who won silver.
The three winners were part of a group of six who broke away from the main pack for a sprint finish.
The decisive break came in the final lap, when Andy Schleck of Luxembourg took the initiative and was joined by four other men.
Only Cancellara was able to bridge the gap between the leaders and the chasing group, and was rewarded with the bronze medal. Schleck had to settle for fifth.
In all 143 competitors from 54 countries left the start line in the centre of Beijing. The conditions were hot and humid, and more than 30 riders abandoned the race before the end.
After speeding by well-known landmarks in the Chinese capital, including Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the cyclists did seven laps of a demanding mountainous course which ended along the ramparts of the Great Wall.
The gruelling 245km race began at 11 a.m. local time and 30-year-old Sanchez finished in a time of six hours, 23 minutes and 49 seconds.
Cancellara had to ride the road race alone after his only teammate's Olympic hopes came to a sudden end earlier this week. Michael Albasini fell during training in Beijing on Tuesday suffering multiple fractures of his left collarbone.
Albasini returned home for treatment and no replacement was named because there was not enough time for a rider to acclimatise before Saturday's race.
After getting off to a flying start this season with victories in the Tirreno Adriatico and Milan-San Remo respectively, Cancellara again performed well in the Tour of Switzerland and the Tour de France.
Courtesy of his victory in the prologue in London and by winning the third stage, Cancellara managed to hold on to the leader's precious yellow jersey for seven long days in the 2007 Tour de France.
Cancellara – a mean machine on the road with a gladiatorial physique and nerves of steel – has been nicknamed "Spartacus" by his team mates.
Like his Roman namesake, Cancellara makes a habit of accumulating victories. He has two UCI World Championship Time Trial rainbow jerseys to his name (2006 and 2007).
swissinfo with agencies
Cancellara was born in Bern in 1981, and became a professional road bicycle racer in 2001.
His career highlights include the under-23 championship individual time trial in 1999, and the Paris-Roubaix race in 2006.
He also won the prologue at the 2004 Tour de France and clinched four titles at Switzerland's national time trial championships since 2002.
Cancellara joined Team CSC in 2006 after the Fassa Bortolo team was discontinued at the end of 2005.
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