What's Cool In Road Cycling

TdF’08 St.6: Kirchen Catches Yellow, Ricco Romps

Race Report: Mountains – they’re what we want and today they start, and list of contenders for yellow is long. After a slow lit fuse, the fireworks finally exploded and Columbia’s Kim Kirchen took over – maybe not the way he wanted, but that’s life at the Tour de France!

Today’s much awaited first-week mountain top finish delivered the goods – but not the gaps many expected. With cat 2 climbs in the last 50km, the terrain suggested an action-packed finale, but in the end, the wheel watchers won out and the gc boys saved their jam for the final few kms. With the most visible action coming inside 1000 meters to go as the finish resembled stage 1’s uphill drag race.

Onto the Road
Today’s stage to the mountain top finish of Super-Besse is 195 kilometers of climbing from Aigurande, there are two 4th cat climbs to soften them up before the riders hit the Col de la Croix-Morand (2nd cat) and then up to the Super-Besse. This is where Bjarne Riis laid the foundations for his 1996 Tour win and as Carlos Sastre points out “after the first time trial, the first test in the mountains is here a bit quick. The Massif Central is always hard and this climb will mark the first differences.”

This morning Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) said it was up to the others to make the race and do the attacking and Schumacher has to defend his yellow, I think I’m in a very good position. Kim Kirchen (Columbia) said his team will try something today as he has it all to gain. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) has bandages on his right arm and leg, but seemed happy enough; he said he slept well and he was fit to race. Auelien Passeron (Saunier Duval) who hit the old lady yesterday did not start today, but there is no word of how the old woman is.

The Start
Just like yesterday the day started with three French riders trying their luck by breaking away at the 5 kilometer point, the plucky riders where; Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Benoit Vaugrenard (Franзaise des Jeux) and Fred Bichot (Agritubel). So far Cofidis have had a rider in every break and today was no different, by 30 kilometers of racing they had a 2 minute advantage, but let’s face it, they had a long way to go.

With 50 kilometers under their belt they had only managed to stretch their lead to 4 minutes which would not be enough when they hit the proper climbs, the first is the 602 meter Cote de Bellegarde-en-Marche (4th cat) at 70 kilometers and then at 90 kilometers the Cote de Crocq (4th cat), which measures up at 740 meters altitude. There isn’t much down hill between there and the big climb of the Col de la Croix-Morand.

Sylvain Chavanel’s day in the break (once again) was a good’n. He netted the Maillot Pois.

The first two climbs were taken by Sylvain Chavanel, neither were much of a battle, this puts Chavanel within 2 points of the mountains lead and with more mountain points available today, Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues) will struggle to hang on to his jersey. In the bunch Gerolsteiner where protecting the yellow jersey, but Silence-Lotto and Columbia where not too far away. At Gait with 100 kilometers to the finish the three Frenchmen had 5 minutes in hand on a complete bunch that was quite happy to leave them out there. The hardest climbing starts after the sprint at La Bourboule (144 kilometers) and goes up nearly 500 meters in 14 kilometers to the top of the Col de la Croix-Morand, the last 50 kilometers is where the action should kick off!

Through the feed (111 kilometers) one of yesterday’s break away riders, Florent Brard (Cofidis) gets all tangled up with some mussettes and manages to twist his rear gear up and back and has to wait for a new bike. Soon after Cadel Evans also has some bike problems as the rain starts to fall quite heavily, he has four team mates to pace him back through the cars, Evans is not too happy with a few of the moto’s and has a slap at one of the Gendarmes. With 66 kilometers to go the break is in torrential rain and black skies, but the bunch is in sunshine, they could be the black skies of doom as they won’t be away much longer!

The Col de la Croix-Morand
Through the sprint at La Bourboule, taken by Vaugrenard (FdJ), the three leaders are only 2 minutes in front of the Gerolsteiner lead bunch as the road starts to climb the foothills of the Col de la Croix-Morand. The first attack from the peloton comes from Remi Pauriol (Credit Agricole), as Vaugrenard is dropped by the leaders; this starts more attacks from some of the lesser lights, but no reactions from the favorites, yet. The bunch catches Vaugrenard and is now one and a half minutes behind Chavanel and Bichot with one and a bit kilometers to the summit. Caisse d’Epargne are leading the chase and look to have their whole team at the front as Chavanel goes over first and Voeckler, the mountains leader, jumps away to get third which puts him and Chavanel on the same points. Now just the long descent to the bottom of the Super-Besse and more action.

The Super-Besse
The team of Alejandro Valverde has taken control of proceedings again and with 23 hard kilometers to go, the two stubborn leaders have 20 seconds on the fast-closing bunch. As they are about be caught, Bichot (Agritubel) decides he wants to stay out a little longer and puts his head down, but it’s the last kicks of life and a case of “hope over expectancy.” Bichot is giving it his best as he enters the last 15 kilometers, but he is only 18 seconds in front and on the straight road the hounds can see the rabbit. With 13 kilometers to go it’s all together, apart from the sprinters’ group which is about 5 minutes behind.

First attack comes at the 10 kilometer sign from Amael Moinard (Cofidis) and Laurent Lefevre (Bouygues), who are chased by a small group of four as the bunch is in one long line behind Caisse d’Epargne, and Filippo Pozzato of Liquigas gets dropped.

5 Kilometers to the Finish
Two riders, Efimkin (Ag2r) and Moncoutie (Cofidis) have a 10 second gap, but then out of nowhere, Leo Piepoli (Saunier Duval) and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin) shoot past them, the bunch raises the pace and the mountains jersey of Voeckler shoots out the back. The Italian and the American soon have 20 seconds on the Valverde train behind and with one kilometer to the summit it looks like they could do it.

But it’s not to be as Oscar Pereiro dragged the tatters of the peloton up to them as many of the stars where at the back and suffering. Then comes the crash for Schumacher at the wrong time – a simple shift of riders, a crossed wheel from Kim Kirchen and Schumi’s day turns from yellow to gloom.

Uh oh: the fateful sequence.

Doesn’t this all remind you of that fateful final sprint at the ENECO Tour a few years back when Schumi did the same thing to Hincapie?

Pereiro pulls over a little early, leaving Valverde on the front, Riccardo Ricco, whom we had not seen all day, jumps round Alejandro Valverde for the stage win and Evans is third. Schumacher loses enough time to drop to third overall and Kim Kirchen does what he said this morning and “try something” and takes the yellow jersey.

Ricco won by a solid chunk of pavement.

It didn’t taking long for the Italian Mouth to get his first Tour de France stage!

An exciting last kilometers and a new yellow jersey, the only problem we have now is what outlandish statements Riccardo Ricco will come out with tonight and tomorrow. Well, it looks like the Tour has started, bring it on!!

And by way of not getting dropped or falling down in the final sprint: Kim Kirchen is our new Maillot Jaune!

…and Maillot Vert.

Stage 6 Result:
1 Riccardo Riccт (Ita) Saunier Duval – Scott in 4.57.52
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1 sec
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto at same
4 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank at 4 secs
5 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia
6 Moises Dueсas Nevado (Spa) Barloworld at 7 secs
7 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas
8 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
10 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval – Scott

Overall after Stage 6:
1 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia in 24:30:41
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto at 6 secs
3 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner at 16 secs
4 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle at 44 secs
5 David Millar (GB) Team Garmin-Chipotle at 47 secs
6 Thomas Lцvkvist (Swe) Team Columbia at 54 secs
7 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 1:03
8 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1:12
9 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step
10 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne

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