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The First World Cup Win for the Gladiator!

First Big Win!

Italian Andrea Tafi made a late breakaway on Saturday to win the 250-km Tour of Lombardy as teammate and World Cup leader Johan Museeuw of Belgium failed to sew up the title.

Tafi's late surge at the Colle del Gallo hill just outside Bergamo left no chance for Swiss Fabian Jeker, who finished more than two minutes behind the Italian but managed to beat Belgium's Axel Merckx in a final sprint for second place.

"This is the best day of my life, after marrying my wife," said the Tuscan rider, who also won the Paris-Brussels race and the Tour of Lazio this year.

Two thirds of the race was dominated by Swede Michael Andersson, who took an early lead but fell back at the 170-km mark, when he was caught by a group of 10 riders including France's Laurent Jalabert and Italians Daniele Nardello, Davide Rebellin and Gianni Bugno.

Nardello and Rebellin finished joint fourth, Bugno was fifth and Jalabert was joint eighth.

Fatigued, Andersson was unable to stay with the leaders when they broke away 37 kms from the finish. They rode side by side until Tafi turned on the heat at the Colle del Gallo, two kms from the line in this northern hill town.

"I tried a first breakaway, looked back and saw the other two, then tried another, looked back and there was nothing," said Tafi.

"To win in cycling you've got to be willing to make sacrifices, and I have made them and now I have been justly awarded," added Tafi, who rides with the Mapei-GB team and is now ranked fifth in the World Cup standings.

1. Andrea Tafi (Italy) 250 km in 5:51:46
2. Fabian Jeker (Switzerland)   2.19
3. Axel Merckx (Belgium)   2:22
4. Daniele Nardello (Italy)   2:29
5. Davide Rebellin (Italy)   s.t.
6. Gianni Bugno (Italy)  3:03 
7. Richard Virenque (France)  3:04
8. Mauro Gianetti (Switzerland)
9. Laurent Jalabert (France)
10. Andrea Peron (Italy)