TdF Stage 6 -- Big Mouth Strikes Again
It didn't take long for Ricardo Ricco to make an impact on this year's Tour with an emphatic win over Alejandro Valverde and Cadel Evans. Really it's only fitting that Ricco win on a mountain named "Super". It certainly matches his perception of his own abilities -- although it's hard to dispute that he is quickly gaining a reputation as being invicible once the road tilts up. It's all fine as long as he doesn't start yapping (as he did in the Giro) and talking about himself in the third person.
Valverde also redeemed himself somewhat today, taking back a few seconds after his disappointing TT on Tuesday. What may have been as significance was the performance by the rest of the Caisse d'Epargne squad. They took the race by the scruff of the neck over the last 50km. On the Super-Besse in particular the set a tempo that spit some of the favourites (including Damiano Cunego) out the back of the remnants of the peloton. If they can control the race like in the high mountains they may be able to put favourites like Evans into real trouble. And with 2006 Tour winner Pereiro (who's also a good time trialist) now in the top 10 they've got some cards to play.
What a day, can't wait for tomorrow. Speaking of which tomorrow's stage is another lumpy one through the Massif Central (Eddie Merckx like to attack on these stages) so it may be one where the break sticks.
One final note, Kim Kirchen continues to impress, and you've got to love anyone named Kim.
Italy's Riccardo Riccò followed through on his promise to win the Tour de France's Super Besse stage with an uphill charge finishing ahead of Alejandro Valverde and Cadel Evans. Behind him the rest raced for the prestigious maillot jaune.
The finish was overshadowed by a crash by yellow jersey wearer Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), who was in the lead group in the final kilometre, but touched wheels and crashed to the pavement. Official do not apply the same time rule for crash victims on hilltop finishes, so the German lost his overall lead to Kim Kirchen (Columbia) who finished fifth behind compatriot Fränk Schleck.
"I came here to gain experience and to win a stage," said Riccò of Team Saunier Duval. The experience of winning ahead of cycling's biggest names, Valverde of Team Caisse d'Epargne, Evans of Silence Lotto and Frank Schleck of CSC – will provide confidence for the fiery 24 year-old.
Free from the battle for the maillot jaune taking place in his wake, Riccò charged up the final 200 metres of Route de Besse. After Schumacher clipped the rear wheel of Team Columbia's Kirchen and fell on his left side, the 28 year-old Schleck accelerated forward. Schleck, who won the 2006 Alpe d'Huez stage, attacked, passing Riccò and then Valverde. Riccò responded immediately and moved up the left side of the road with Valverde and Evans in tow.
Schleck drifted back on road's right while Kirchen bridged to his compatriot. Kirchen's efforts gave him the race leader's yellow jersey with six seconds overall on Evans and 16 seconds on Schumacher, who struggled to finish in 25th place.