Kirchen in yellow as Ricco wins Tour's sixth stage
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kirchen in yellow as Ricco wins Tour's sixth stage

by Agence France-Presse at 12:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Italian Riccardo Ricco of Saunier Duval won the Tour de France sixth stage, a 195.5km race from Aigurande to here in the Massif Central on Thursday, with Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg, riding for the Colombia team, taking the race leader's yellow jersey.

Spain's Alejandro Valverde and Cadel Evans of Australia finished on Ricco's wheel as the Italian won in 4hr 57min 52sec while Kirchen went clear in the overall standings after previous leader Stefan Schumacher of Gerolsteiner came off his bike in the final stages to lose almost 30sec.

After the crash on Wednesday that left Valverde with cuts, bruises and a sore shoulder, it was time for Evans, the Spaniard's big rival, to have a brush with misfortune before he roared back in a grand finale to stand just 6sec behind Kirchen.

As the peloton upped the pace to bring down a deficit of five minutes on an early three-man, all-French breakaway, Evans suffered a puncture. It was nothing too dramatic, although his Silence-Lotto team, who had been up at the front sitting behind Schumacher's Gerolsteiner team, were forced to pull back and wait for the Australian.

Schumacher stands a further 10sec adrift after his own mishap when he clipped Kirchen's wheel as teammate Bernhard Kohl came alongside. "It was one of those things - it wasn't deliberate," sighed the German, who was unable to benefit from a rule normally allowing a rider who falls in the final three kilometres to be given the time of the group he was with at the time. A summit finish is an exception.

Evans, the runner-up last year, was finally brought back to the bunch after his puncture by Ukrainian teammate Yaroslav Popovych, but not before the Aussie hit out, physically, at a policeman on a motorbike - apparently for blocking his way.

Despite the hilly profile of the course, the pace of the chasing peloton finally closed the deficit on Sylvain Chavanel, Freddy Bichot and Benoit Vaugrenard to just two minutes with 43km to race. At that point, on the easier percentages of the Croix-Morand climb, Vaugrenard began trailing his compatriots.

As Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne team took over setting the pace at the front, the first category two climb of the race played host to the first signs of panic.

Numerous counter-attacks came and went, and just before the summit Frenchman Thomas Voeckler, the provisional King of the Mountains, raced ahead to claim some of the points on offer for his polka dot jersey. Voeckler, whose efforts allowed him to pull level with Chavanel in the polka dot competition, went over the summit 54secs behind the front pair, and his acceleration prompted Sandy Casar and Spaniard Gorka Verdugo to follow him. The trio hit the descent at speed in a bid to plug the gap, but were soon reeled in by the peloton.

Chavanel, who had instigated the day's breakaway, finally relented 20km from the finish line. Vaugrenard, of Agritubel, could not hold off the peloton on his own and his solo ride came to an end with 13.5km to go, just before the 11.5km climb to the first summit finish of the race. There, Ricco took his chance to bag the day's honours while Kirchen did enough to claim yellow with his fifth place at 4sec adrift.
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