Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) waited at the finish line to see exactly how much time he had gained on his rivals after winning in Bagneres-de-Bigorre on Sunday.

He was mainly riding for the stage victory when he jumped away four kilometres from the summit of the Col d?Aspin and then blasted down the descent, but he is also keeping one eye on the overall classification.

He had a terrible time trial in Cholet, losing three minutes to Kirchen and Evans. He avoids saying he is still riding to win the Tour de France but admits that he would love to gain huge chunks of time on his rivals later in the Tour and win the Tour de France like his idol Marco Pantani.

?I said I?d win another stage,? Ricco said with a cheeky smile before going on the podium to saviour his second stage win in this year?s Tour de France.

?I hadn?t planned to attack, it was just a spur of the moment decision but when I went, I was really impressed with how I felt because I was so fast. The mountains are my thing and so it?s great to be able to perform so well.?

NO WORRIES AFTER EXTRA DOPING TESTS

Ricco has been in the headlines since Manuel Beltran?s positive for EPO because he has been tested several times after stages. His high haematocrit level seems to have attracted the attention of the French anti-doping controllers but he insists there is nothing to worry about because he has a special UCI licence that allows him to have values up to 52%.

?I?m bit angry that people have doubts about me but I know I?ve nothing to worry about. I?m just happy to have won another stage and people can test me as much as they want,? Ricco said.

?I?m not bothered about the time I lost in the time trial, I?m happy with what I?ve done in this Tour but at the same time I?m not the sort of rider who just gives up. I?ll keep on riding hard and who knows what might happen. I haven?t given up on the overall yet. I?ve got good legs and I?ve shown I?m competitive against then best riders in the Tour de France. There are a lot of good riders here but I?m going to try and do my best all the way to Paris.?

If Ricco has the same climbing form during Monday?s stage to the mountain top finish at Hautacam, he could perhaps gain minutes on the big favourites for the yellow jersey. He knows it but insisted he wants to help loyal team mate Leonardo Piepoli win a mountain stage.

I know that Hautacam is a stage that suits me but I?d love help Piepoli win and I?m going to work for him,? he said.

?That?s a strong motivating factor for me because he is such a loyal team mate. You saw that again today; his attack was great and it prompted others to chase. That set things up for me to make my attack at just the time when the other riders were easing up. Leonardo is in good form and I?ll try and help him win at Hautacam.?

Monday?s 156km tenth stage is from Pau to Hautacam. It also includes the legendary Col du Tourmalet (17.7km at 7.5%) before the 14.4km climb to the finish at an average of 7.2%.

The stage is expected to show who really can win the 2008 Tour de France but could also see Ricco back as a dangerous overall contender.

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage nine: Ricco wins in the Pyrenees

Stage eight: Cavendish wins again in Toulouse

Stage seven: Sanchez takes action-packed stage

Stage six: Ricco storms to win

Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win

Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead

Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break

Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint

Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Cavendish talks about his second stage win [stage eight]

Beltran heads home but doubts remain about other Tour riders

David Millar: the dope controls are working

Manuel Neltran tests positive for EPO at the Tour

Comment: How the Tour rediscovered its spirit

Doping back in Tour de France headlines

Millar: close but no cigar in Super-Besse [stage six]

Super-Besse shows form of main contenders [stage six]

Millar to go for yellow [stage six]

Team Columbia’s reaction to Cavendish’s win [stage five]

Cavendish talks about his Tour stage win

Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]

Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]

Who is Romain Feillu?

Cavendish disappointed with stage two result

Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey

Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?

Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec

Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win

Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

Stage eight

Stage seven

Stage six

Stage five

Stage four

Stage three

Stage two

Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: BLOGS

Life at the Tour part three

Life at the Tour part two

Life at the Tour part one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

Tour de France 2008 homepage>>

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Day by day summary>>

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