Emerging Italian talent Riccardo Ricco’ (Saunier Duval-Scott) took his first career stage Tour De France stage win at the Super Besse ski station, sprinting home first ahead of former Maillot Jaune Alejandro Valverde in a hard fought finale, while Maillot Jaune Stefen Schumacher touched wheels with Columbia’s Kim Kirchen with 300m to go and hit the deck. He got up quickly, but it was too late as Kirchen gained enough time to take the Maillot Jaune from the German. "I hit Kirchen's wheel and went down," Schumacher gasped after he finished. “It’s like a bad movie for me,” Schumacher said. “It’s not fair to give the jersey away like that. I don’t know why Kirchen moved into me. I felt really good. After that, I had no chance anymore.”the Gerolsteiner man explained sadly as he realized he had lost the race lead at the Tour De France.
Nicknamed "The Cobra," Ricco' coiled and struck fast, winning the uphill drag race for the line from Valverde with a brilliant sprint that show why the Giro d'Italia runner-up is considered one of the most talented young riders in the peloton today. "This was an important win for me today. I wanted to win this stage and I achieved my objective, and I beat Valverde, who is a great champion. So it's a great thing for me and the team."
The 24 year old Saunier Duval-Scott man explained "I've been feeling really good in the Tour so far and today was a perfect finish for me and my characteristics as a rider. As for the rest of the Tour, I'm here to get experience this year, to learn the Tour, so I'm going day by day and have no special objectives." Next stop for The Cobra, who's idol is the late Marco Pantani, may be the Stage 10 mountaintop finish atop the Hautacam climb on Monday 14 July.
New Maillot Jaune Kim Kirchen (Columbia) grabbed the race lead from Schumacher while his Columbia teammate Lovkvist kept his Maillot Blanc of Best Young Rider.
Cofidis man Sylvain Chavanel had a double dip day at Super Besse, as he not only took the Maillot Pois of Best Climber away from his French rival Thomas Voeckler, but was also the Most Combative Rider. Chavanel explained post-stage that "I had two tactics today; either stay with the other riders until the end or go out on in break and that's how it happened, so my only choice then was to go for the climbers jersey."
How It Happened
After a fast start from Aigurande at 12:30pm, after just 6km of Stage 6, it was Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) who got the first gap on the peloton and he was joined by two other French riders, Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) and Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ) 10km later. Once again, there were three French riders out front and once again, the Gerolsteiner team of Maillot Jaune Schumacher assembled at the front of the peloton and kept the break in check; after 50km, the French trio had a 5' lead. Their maximum lead was 5’15’’ after 95km as the Gerolsteiner squad was riding a strong, steady tempo but as the first big climb of the day approached, the 8km, 5.1% climb of the Cat.2 Col de la Croix-Morand, the gap was down to 1’55’’. Chavanel attacked and took the KOM points which put him in the Maillot Pois lead and only Bichot could follow, Vaugrenard was dropped.
Behind the leaders, there were numerous attacks during the descent of the Col de la Croix-Morand, but only Maillot Pois Voeckler got the remaining points to stay in the hunt for the Best Climber classification. Chavanel sat up on the descent and was caught by the peloton, while Bichot kept going on his own until he was caught at the base of the Super-Besse climb with 10km to go. The action heated up as soon as it was peloton groupee', as Laurent Lefèvre (Bouyges Telecom) and Amaël Moinard (Cofidis) hit out, but the pace behind, led by Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne squad, was too high.
At 6km to go, Efimkin (Ag2r) countered, followed by Moncoutié (Cofidis) but all four were doomed when Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Scott) and Vandevelde (Garmin) surged from the group Maillot Jaune. The caught and passed the 4 front riders with 4km to go and got a maximum lead of 19", but at the foot of the last steep section with 2.5km to go, the Caisse d'Epargne train was pulling them back. Piepoli and Vandevelde were caught with 1.5km to go and then the cat and mouse game began among the front runners, while Cunego (Lampre) was popped out the back by the high pace.
With 300m to go, Franck Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank) made a strong move and in the chaos to cover, Maillot Jaune Schumacher crashed. Ricardo Ricco went at 250m. to go and his irresistable acceleration carried him to his first career stage win, while Kim Kirchen (Colombia) became the 4th rider in this 2008 Tour to wear the Maillot Jaune.
Friday 11 July
Stage 7: Brioude–Aurillac: 159 km
A short, difficult and nervous stage across the small country roads of the southern Massif Central over the Puy Mary and the climb down to Aurillac has the potential for trouble. The first attacks should go on the 6.5km, 4.7-percent climb of the Col d’Entremont after 50km, with counter moves certain on the ascent of steep 7.8km Col du Pas de Peyrol/Puy Mary with 40km to go. With another all-French break likely the menu du jour, perhaps another "bleu" will win a Tour stage in Aurillac.