The first mountain finish of the 2008 Tour de France to Super-Besse was not particularly difficult but the steep final 1.5km and the dash to the line has left some of the overall favourites with sore legs and meant they lost precious seconds.

Kim Kirchen (Columbia) became the first rider from Luxembourg to wear the yellow jersey since Charly Gaul in the fifties. Kirchen was fifth on the stage; four seconds behind stage winner Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) but took yellow thanks to his impressive consistency so far in the race and an excellent time trial in Cholet.

He was the big winner of the day and now leads an almost equally consistent Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) by six seconds, with Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) third at 16 seconds.

Schumacher was set to keep the yellow jersey just a few hundred metres from the finish but then seemed to ride into Kirchen and ended up on the ground. He lost 32 seconds to Ricco and with no same-time rule for crashes in the final three kilometres on mountain finishes, Schumacher slipped to third.

ONE-MINUTE ADVANTAGE

Kirchen and Evans have already carved out a minute-lead on most of their overall rivals thanks to the time trial and can now begin to ride on the defensive and force the likes of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and the Schleck brothers (Frank and Andy, CSC-Saxo Bank) to use valuable energy to try and pull back time.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is seventh at 1-03 behind Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Chipotle), David Millar (Garmin-Chipotle) and best young rider Thomas Lovkist (Columbia), with Valverde eighth at 1-12, Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank) 12th at 1-43 and Cunego 14th at 1-42.

It may be too early to write off anyone?s chances in this year?s very open race but Cunego looked terrible as he struggled up to the finish in Super-Besse, with only Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) being dropped before him.

The Lampre team tried to play down losing 32 so easily but in the stage finish was expected to suit Cunego as much as Ricco, instead Cunego was left on the ropes and grabbed all the headlines in Italy.

His only consolation is that the Schleck brothers are even further behind. Frank finished just behind Ricco but Andy was blocked by the Schumacher crash. Both had poor time trial in Cholet and are now 17th and 18th respectfully at a worrying 1-56 and 1-58.

The Tour de France has only just begun but for some of them it could already be over even before the Pyrenees.

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

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

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 five

Stage four

Stage three

Stage two

Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

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