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Cyclist Bettini Captures Week-Long Tirreno-Adriatico Race - 2004-03-16

Defending champion Paolo Bettini has captured the week-long Tirreno-Adriatico cycling race, while his fellow-Italian, Alessandro Petacchi, held on in a sprint finish to win the seventh and final stage.

Petacchi's stage victory was his third of the race and fifth this season. He covered the 162-kilometer circuit around San Benedetto del Tronto in four hours, 43 minutes and 29 seconds. He also won the first two stages of the race, but did not finish in the overall top-10.

Erik Zabel of Germany was second in Tuesday's stage, while Italian Gabriele Balducci finished third. Both men were credited with the same stage time as Bettini.

Bettini won the overall race title in 33 hours, 47 minutes and six seconds. That was five seconds faster than Spain's Oscar Freire, while Erik Zabel took third place, 11 seconds off the winning pace. The victory gives the World Cup champion Bettini a boost ahead of Saturday's Milan-San Remo Classic, which opens the 2004 World Cup season.

Rounding out the top 10 finishers:

4. Igor Astarloa, Spain, (18 seconds back)
5. Stuart O'Grady, Australia, (21 seconds)
6. Michael Boogerd, Netherlands (22)
7. Rolf Aldag, Germany, (26)
7. Giuliano Gigueras, Italy (also 26)
8. Angel Vicioso, Spain, (27)
9. Joaquin Rodriguez, Spain (28)