SPOILER – Stage Recap – Stage 6

July 10, 2008

Here’s how letour.fr recapped today’s stage 6.

Ricco Rises To The Occasion!

Once again the Tour de France has seen a sprint of the GC contenders. While the yellow jersey was picking himself up from the tarmac after crashing into the rear wheel of Kim Kirchen in the final sprint, Riccardo Ricco was lighting up the front of the stage with a blistering sprint ahead of Alejandro Valverde and Cadel Evans. The Italian reached the line first to claim his first stage win, the Spaniard finished second in the stage and the Australian shifted up to second overall. But Columbia can again celebrate a coup with their Luxembourg recruit become the fourth rider in 2008 to wear the yellow jersey.

The Progress Report
The sixth stage of the 2008 Tour de France, a 195.5km journey from Aigurande to Super Besse, began at 12.25pm. There were 176 riders in the race, with one of the crash victims of stage five, Aurelien Passeron (SDV) the overnight retiree. The itinerary included four categorized climbs two category-four ascents (the Cote de L’Armelle at 70km and the Cote de Crocq at 89km) and the first category-two rises in the 95th edition (the Col de la Croix-Morand at 158km and the climb to the finish). Although it was widely regarded as a mountain stage there were still three intermediate sprints in Chatelus-Malvaleix (23.5km), Cressat (44.5km) and La Bourboule (144km).

French Fugitives A Feature Again Today…
At the six kilometer Chavanel (COF) attacked and opened a gap on the peloton. This prompted a reaction from Vaugrenard (FDJ) and Bichot (AGR) who chased down the rider voted most aggressive in stage two and caught him at the 14km mark. Others attempted to bridge the gap – including Pate (TSL) and Augustyn (BAR) – but their efforts didn’t last long. At the 26km mark, a truce of sorts was declared as the yellow jersey opted to answer nature’s call and by the 28km mark, the bunch’s deficit was 2’10”. This grew to 4’00” by the end of the first hour when the leading trio contested the second sprint after racing at an average of 44.5km/h. At the 50km mark, the three were ahead by 5’00”.

Gerolsteiner led the peloton for the early part of the stage and kept the escapees within a reasonable distance. The average speed for the 2nd hour was 37.6km/h. Chavanel led over the two small climbs and, by the cote de Crocq the peloton was 4’15” behind. Silence-Lotto moved up and road on the coat-tails of the yellow jersey’s squad. At 95km, the peloton was 5’15” behind, this was the maximum gain before Gerolsteiner really picked up the pace. By the feedzone (111km), the bunch’s deficit was just 3’20”.

Col de la Croix-Morand
At the base of the first category-two climb of the 2008 Tour, the leading trio was 2’00” ahead of the peloton that was led by Gerolsteiner. The first attack came from Pauriol (C.A) but he was reeled in before the summit. There was a brief flurry with other riders – including Astarloza (EUS), De La Fuente (SDV). Vaugrenard was dropped and Chavanel did most of the work in the lead and crested the Croix-Morand climb in first. Voeckler (BTL) attacked the peloton in the final meters and claimed third place, 56” behind. The Caisse d’Epargne team which led the yellow jersey’s peloton all the way up the ascent. With 20km to go, Chavanel quit his effort and waited for the peloton. Bichot insisted and had an advantage of 25”.

Setting Up The Finale
Botcharov attacked the peloton with 18km to go. He tried to catch Bichot but the Agritubel rider refused to wait and the Russian was caught after four kilometers. The Frenchman finally surrendered with 13km to go. What happened in the lead-up to the final ascent mattered little for it was only when Piepoli (SDV) and Vande Velde (TSL) attacked that the real action began. These two got as far as 18” ahead of the peloton that was controlled by Caisse d’Epargne all the way to the final kilometer. It prompted the lead group to split until only about 20 riders remained before the steepest part of the climb. That’s when Valverde, Ricco and Evans found themselves at the front of the pack. As they began to sprint, Schumacher suffered a fall 300m from the line after crashing into Kirchen’s rear wheel. No one else fell. Ricco bolted into the lead with 300m to go and led Valverde and Evans over the line. Kirchen finished the stage in fifth place and inherited the yellow jersey from the German. Sandwiched in between the former race leader and the former green jersey leader at the top of the general classification is Cadel Evans.

They said it more concisely than I could have without giving you a series of updates all the way through the stage.

Suffice it to say, Kim Kirchen looks poised to ride away with this race unless Valverde heals quickly and gets some energy back in his legs.