Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) had announced he would go for stage victory at Super-Besse and kept his word, winning the sprint to the line ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne) and Cadel Evans (Silence).

The steep final 1.5km was a battle of nerves as riders switched across the road to charge to the line. Ricco took it up with three metres to go and sprinted to the finish to win his first ever Tour de France stage.

?It?s a great to win like that. I?ve always dreamed about winning at the Tour de France,? Ricco said before climbing onto the winner?s podium.

?I hadn?t beaten Valverde before but now I?ve added his name to list.?

“I felt good on the climb. I marked Valverde in the last kilometre. The last kilometre was very fast but everybody eased at 300m to go. I still felt good and so went for it. I looked under my arm and saw I?d got a gap and I knew I?d won.?

Kim Kirchen (Columbia) finished fourth just behind Ricco and so took the yellow jersey from Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner). Schumacher crashed in the final 300 metres, effectively ending his reign in yellow. Kirchen now leads Evans by six seconds, Schumacher is third at 16 seconds and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin) is fourth at 44 seconds.

David Millar (Garmin-Chipotle) had hoped to take the yellow jersey but he finished 51 seconds behind Ricco and is now fifth overall, 47 seconds behind Kirchen.

KIRCHEN: HAPPY WITH YELLOW… AND GREEN

“I?ve been so close to the yellow jersey all week and so it?s great to finally have it now,? Kirchen said.

?I thought I could get it throughout the stage because the finish suited me so well. It was my kind of finish and I was feeling really, really good. I?d tried everything but now I?m happy I?ve got it.?

?In the sprint I had to brake because it was all closed down on the right side.”

“I had some good speed and a reasonable position. A little gap open up between me and the first few guys and I couldn?t close it and I?m a little bit sorry that I couldn?t win the stage but I have two jerseys (yellow and green) right now and that?s enough.?

It was another great day for Columbia after Mark Cavendish?s stage win on Wednesday. Now the boys in blue will have to defend the yellow jersey during Friday?s hilly seventh stage from Brioude to Aurillac.

?Every day has been pretty hard and it was the same again today. We?ll see what happens tomorrow; we start with a climb and I hope there?ll be a breakaway again and we can control the race but in the Tour there?s never any time to rest and it?s going to be hard again,? Kirchen said.

EARLY ACTION

With the steep climb up to the finish at Super-Besse, it was always going to be difficult for a breakaway to stay clear but Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) and Benoit Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux) went for it anyway, jumping away after just six kilometres of the 195.5km stage.

They quickly opened a five-minute lead but Gerolsteiner never let them go too far clear as the German team showed they would defend Schumacher?s yellow jersey.

Chavanel hung on to win the points at the top of the second category La Croix-Morand climb and take the polka-dot jersey. Bichot made a desperate solo attack but all three Frenchmen were caught before the serious business began on the climb to Super-Besse.

Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole) had a go with ten kilometres to go and thenVladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale) and David Moncoutie (Cofidis) fired off the front. However they were quickly pulled back by the fast moving front group of overall contenders.

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Chipotle) and Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval) went clear near the end of the main climb. They opened a gap on the dip down to the foot of the final 1.5km steep climb to the finish but were quickly pulled back by Caisse d?Epargne who were riding to set up Valverde for the stage win.

Just 20 riders were left in the front group and more and more riders were dropped because of the fast pace.

French hero Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) lost contact and then so did Damiano Cunego (Lampre). David Millar also struggled, while Stefan Schumacher found himself on the ground 300 metres from the finish after touching wheels with Kirchen.

As he picked himself up and began to chase, Ricco jumped off the front to win the stage. He is the big mouth of the peloton but silenced his critics with a great first Tour de France stage win.

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE 6 RESULTS

1. Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval 195.5km in 4h 57m 52secs


2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1sec

3. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at same time

4. Frank Schleck (Lux) CSC-Saxo Bank at 4sec

5. Kim Kirchen (Lux) Columbia at same time

6. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 7secs

7. Moises Duenas (Spa) Barloworld

8. Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Saxo Bank

9. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank

10. Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval all at same time.

British

39. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Chipotle at 51secs

79. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 4m 48secs

168. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia at 17m 46secs

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 6

1. Kim Kirchen (Lux) Columbia in 24h 30m 41secs


2. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 6secs

3. Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner at 16secs

4. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 44secs

5. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Chipotle at 47secs

6. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Columbia at 54secs

7. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 1m 3secs

8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1m 12secs

9. Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step at 1m 21secs

10. Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1m 21secs

British

97. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 15m 40secs

141. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia at 23m 28secs

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS

1. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis

BEST YOUNG RIDER

1. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Columbia

Tour de France 2008Stefan Schumacher goes down on the final run-in to Super Besse. Photo series by Luc Claessen

Tour de France 2008Tour de France 2008Tour de France 2008Tour de France 2008Tour de France 2008Sylvain Chavanel, Freddy Bichot and Benoit Vaugrenard. Photos by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2008Mark Cavendish took it easy after yesterday stage win

Tour de France 2008Gerolsteiner drove the bunch to chase down the break

Tour de France 2008David Millar

Tour de France 2008Alejandro Valverde leads Riccardo Ricco and Cadel Evans

Tour de France 2008Riccardo Ricco came good on his promise, and won the stage

Tour de France 2008Kim Kirchen in the yellow jersey

Photos by Graham Watson

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

Tour de France 2008 homepage>>

News and features>>

All the riders (start list, list of abandons)>>

Tour 2008: Day by day summary

Route & stages>>

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