Ricco recovers, and looking to Hautacam
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ricco recovers, and looking to Hautacam

by Agence France-Presse at 7:13 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Italian Riccardo Ricco is hoping his slow recovery from a crash in the eighth stage of the Tour de France continues ahead of Sunday's second day of racing in the high mountains.

Saunier Duval team leader Ricco claimed his first victory in the race when he majestically outsprinted Alejandro Valverde and fellow yellow jersey favourite Cadel Evans on the climb to Super-Besse on stage six.

It was a maiden victory which showed that Ricco, who finished runner-up to Alberto Contador in the Giro d'Italia last month, is not afraid to mix it up with the yellow jersey men.

Despite pulling out of contention for the race's main prize, Ricco is preparing to become the main troublemaker again

But this time, it could be through leading teammate Leonardo Piepoli, whose job it is to lead Ricco as far up the climbs as possible, to victory on the first high mountain summit finish at Hautacam on Monday. "I'd love to help him win a stage," said Ricco, who started the ninth stage from Toulouse to here with scrapes on his backside and knee following a crash on Saturday which prompted fears of an early departure.

As long as he gets through Sunday's first foray into the Pyrenees, Ricco has big aims for Monday's 10th stage.

Helping Piepoli to a first Tour stage win would be just reward for the Swiss-born Italian after years of hard 'domestique' work in the mountains of the major Tours for the likes of Gilberto Simoni, and now Ricco. But it could come at a price.

Ricco wants to emulate his fallen idol Marco Pantani by claiming the 'king' climber's stage of this year's race, when the legendary Alpe d'Huez hosts the finish line of stage 17. Pantani won at the Alpe twice, in 1995 and 1997.

In Italy, many cycling fans have compared the 24-year-old to the great Italian climber, who is now deceased. In the peloton, however, Ricco's outspoken views have made him few friends. Not that it matters to him: "I'm afraid of no-one" seems to be his motto.

Before then, the 10th stage to Hautacam should host an action-packed battle for a prestigious victory, while also testing the limits of those riders still in contention for the yellow jersey.

Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen began Sunday's ninth stage with an overall lead of six seconds on Evans, the Tour's runner-up last year to Contador, who is absent. It remains to be seen whether the 30-year-old Luxemburger will be one of the many riders to fall victim to the demands of the first 'unclassified' (most difficult) climbs of the race. The peloton will tackle two on Monday - the 17.4 km climb over the 2115-metre summit of the Col du Tourmalet will precede the 14.8km ascent, with average gradients of 7.6 percent, to Hautacam's 1535 metre summit.

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