Ricco wins sixth stage of Tour; Kirchen grabs overall lead

Updated: July 10, 2008, 2:07 PM ET
Associated Press

Hail, Columbia!

Team Columbia, one of two U.S. teams entered in the Tour de France, earned the yellow jersey on Thursday thanks to Kim Kirchen (right), while Garmin-Chipotle holds the lead in the team competition. Bonnie D. Ford charts their progress. Story
SUPER-BESSE, France -- Kim Kirchen became the first Luxembourg rider in 50 years to take the yellow jersey in the Tour de France while Riccardo Ricco of Italy sprinted to a mountaintop victory Thursday in the sixth stage.

Kirchen claimed the overall lead after Stefan Schumacher fell in the final yards. The German had worn the yellow jersey for two days since winning Tuesday's time trial.

Ricco was one second ahead of two top riders -- Alejandro Valverde of Spain and Cadel Evans of Australia -- after the 122-mile ride through the peaks of the Massif Central from Aigurande to the ski resort of Super-Besse.

"Winning a stage so early is excellent for our confidence," said Ricco, the leader of the Saunier Duval team. He previously won a stage in the Giro d'Italia.

[+] EnlargeRiccardo Ricco
Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty ImagesRiccardo Ricco held off the field at the summit of Super-Basse for the first Tour de France stage win of his career.
"Both competitions are great, but the Tour is the most difficult competition in the world," he said.

Schumacher, who had worn the yellow jersey for two days since winning Tuesday's time trial, rode into the wheel of Kirchen during the jostling for positions at the line and fell. Kirchen stayed on his bike and finished fifth. Schumacher came in 25th, 32 seconds behind Ricco.

"I touched Kirchen's wheel and fell. It wasn't deliberate, of course," Schumacher said. "It's a pity. I was feeling strong today. My team worked hard."

Kirchen did not see Schumacher before the crash.

"Everybody moved to the right side," he said. "The guy in front of me braked so I braked, too."

Kirchen is six seconds ahead of Evans and 16 ahead of Schumacher. Christian Vandevelde of the United States is fourth, 44 seconds behind Kirchen.

"I've been a bit surprised by my condition," Kirchen said. "Now I want to take the race day by day. I want to see what happens in the Pyrenees. And if it goes well in the Pyrenees we'll see in the Alps, and in Paris."

Kirchen is the first Luxembourg rider since Charly Gaul in 1958 to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour. Gaul went on to win the race.

Stage-by-Stage Results

Spaniard Carlos Sastre of the CSC team won the Tour de France in one of the closest finishes in the history of the 105-year-old race. A look at the stage-by-stage results:

Stage Miles Winner Overall leader
21 88.9 Gert Steegmans Carlos Sastre
20 32.9 (time trial) Stefan Schumacher Sastre
19 102.8 Sylvain Chavanel Sastre
18 122.1 Marcus Burghardt Sastre
17 130.8 Sastre Sastre
16 97.6 Cyril Dessel Frank Schleck
15 113.7 Simon Gerrans Schleck
14 120.9 Oscar Freire Cadel Evans
13 113.1 Mark Cavendish Evans
12 104.7 Cavendish Evans
11 104.1 Kurt-Asle Arvesen Evans
10 96.9 Leonardo Piepoli Evans
9 139.2 Riccardo Ricco Kim Kirchen
8 107.2 Cavendish Kirchen
7 98.8 Luis-Leon Sanchez Kirchen
6 121.5 Ricco Kirchen
5 144.2 Cavendish Schumacher
4 18.3 (time trial) Schumacher Schumacher
3 129.2 Samuel Dumoulin Romain Feillu
2 102.2 Thor Hushovd Alejandro Valverde
1 122.7 Valverde Valverde
This was a second major boost for U.S.-based Team Columbia, which Kirchen leads. Sprinter Mark Cavendish won Wednesday's stage for the team.

The team competed as T-Mobile last year and had to deal with the imminent loss of its sponsor and the doping case of Patrik Sinkewitz, which was announced during the Tour. The team got a new name shortly before this year's race.

"There are a lot of new riders," Kirchen said. "I think everyone on the team is 100 percent [committed] and now we want to see what we can achieve."

Sylvain Chavanel of France joined two compatriots in a breakaway that lasted most of the day and allowed Chavanel to take the polka-dot jersey for the best climber. All three were caught before the start of the final climb.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press