“I had told you the other day that I would win another one,” said Riccardo Ricco moments after crossing the line. He was right. With two major cols in the final third of a 224km stage, a climber was expected to excel in stage nine and the Italian is a specialist for the mountains. It was a stage that prompted a lot of riders to lose time but the only reshuffle of the top order was from Schumacher who slipped down the rankings a little after losing time on the Col d’Aspin – the site of Ricco’s conquest.
The Progress Report
The 224km ninth stage of the 2008 Tour de France, from Toulouse to Bagnerre-de-Bigorre, began at 11.20am. There were seven climbs on the itinerary starting with four cat-4 ascents – the cote de Saint-Pey (at 42km), cote de Sainte-Quitterie (46km), cote de Mane (91km), col de Buret (113.5km) – then the cat-3 col des Ares (123.5km) followed by the first two cat-1 climbs of the 95th Tour: the col de Peyresourde (with the top at 166.5km) and the col d’Apsin (at 198km). This was the first road stage with just two intermediate sprints; they were in Saint-Sulpice-sur-Leze (at 29.5km) and Sengouagnet (at 111km).
Three Gain Large Advantage Early
David De La Fuente (SDV) continued his usual attacking antics and joined an escape of six riders who jumped ahead of the bunch in the opening kilometer. The others involved were: Bichot (AGR), Clement (BTL), Cheula (BAR), Moncoutie (COF) and Schroder (MRM). They were caught at the 12km mark. The next to attack were Lang (GST), Kuschynski (LIQ) and Jalabert (AGR) who escaped at 22km and once they’d opened a gap of a minute, many in the peloton responded by stopping to answer nature’s call. By 37km, the advantage had blown out to 5’40”; at 39.5km 7’30”; at 42km 9’50”. The average for the first hour was 45.6km/h.
The maximum gain of the escape was 14’20” (at the 55km mark). Then the Euskaltel team came to the front and started to chase. The average speed for the second hour was 40.9km/h. At the top of the third climb, the peloton was 10’55” behind Lang’s trio.
Cadel Evans crashed around the 105km mark, sustaining abrasions to his left elbow. He changed a bike and quickly remounted and rejoined the peloton by 109km even though the Euskaltel team continued to set a rapid tempo. He did consult the race doctor who said the wounds were not too deep but that he expected the Australian would have problems climbing because of the injuries sustained.
Col de Peyresourde
At the base of the Peyresourde, the peloton was 9’10” behind Lang’s trio. Euskaltel was in charge and caused numerous riders to drop and form a ‘grupetto’. Jalabert was the first to drop from the lead group, followed by Kuschynski. De La Fuente attacked the peloton with 6km to climb, he was followed by Montfort. That was the order at the top: 1. Lang; 2. Kuschynski at 40”; 3. Jalabert at 3’40”; 4. De La Fuente at 4’50”; 5. Montfort… Luis Sanchez attacked the peloton just before the summit, taking sixth place points. The yellow jersey and the other top 10 on GC were in the group that was 5’25” behind the stage leader.
Ricco Makes A Winning Move On The Col d’Aspin
Early on the final climb the there were a number of attacks in the yellow jersey’s group including a brief effort by Schumacher who would later become the first from the 10 on GC to be dropped from the main pack. Other attacks came from Casar, Nibali, Kreuziger, Gonzalo.. and a host of others but none had the impact that Ricco would have when he surged 30km from the line. He waited until De La Fuente was caught before flying into the lead like a man possessed. Nothing could get in the way of the Italian winner of stage six; he made the mountain look like a flat road as he captured all ahead of him, the last being Lang who Ricco flew past with 1km to climb. At the top Ricco had a lead of 35” to Lang who was joined by Nibali briefly on the descent before the yellow jersey’s peloton reeled them in. The yellow jersey crested the summit 1’15” behind Ricco. He was able to maintain this advantage all the way to the finish. It was his second stage victory in four days and he moves up from 27th to 21st overall and from fifth to third in the climbing classification.
Kim Kirchen finished the ninth stage in 12th spot, pushing him back into the lead of the points classification and confirming his status as the overall leader. He will wear the yellow jersey in stage 10.
It’s been one big week for the Columbia team. Kim Kirchen has been in the lead since stage six and he admits that it was hard for him on the first day in the Pyrenees. He’s been in control of two classifications but believes that another day like the one over the Col d’Aspin could cost him his yellow jersey.
“It was a hard day and I was really lucky that we had a headwind because it limited the attacks and I could follow the wheels of the others. I survived what was maybe a bad day. We’ll see tomorrow. In the mountains it doesn’t matter too much if I’m isolated without team support. There are a lot of teams with guys who haven’t done a lot of work in the first week like we have so I think they’ll have an advantage in the next few days. It’s time for them to come forward and do some work.
“Ricco did a very good ride. I was impressed. There was a lot of wind and for one guy, by himself, to do what he did is proof that he’s very, very strong.
“You may have seen me at the back a little bit more today. Maybe I was suffering but that’s the Tour and I hope to be better tomorrow. We’re just going to see what happens. I just hope my legs are a little bit better in stage 10. If I feel like I did today, I will be dropped.”
Going on his experience in his first Grand Tour, Andy Schleck believes that the ninth stage is a lucky one in the race for the white jersey. He has taken the lead in the youth classification and is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead in his first Tour de France.
“I remember last year at the Giro d’Italia, I also got the white jersey in stage number nine and I never gave it up so I hope I can do the same thing here. Of course, we have seen that Ricco is extremely strong the other day and again on the Col d’Aspin and he will surely keep going. Lovkvist had a really bad day today and I feel a little sorry for him because he is my friend but that’s cycling.
“The white jersey is an objective and if I’m good, then I’ll keep it. When I’m riding for a good result in the general classification then I should be able to defend it.
“It wasn’t too bad today because the favorites were looking at each other and when Ricco attacked they just let him go. Caisse d’Epargne looked at Evans, and Evans looked at Menchov and he looked at us and so we all rode to the finish together without too many attacks. I was never in trouble although there were times when I was starting to wonder about my form at the start of the Tour but that was just in my mind. My legs are good now and I’m looking forward to the high mountains tomorrow and the Alps. I hope that I can show that I’m in good shape.
“Today we weren’t riding too aggressively we were waiting for the others to attack and they were waiting for us to go so that’s how Ricco was able to take advantage of the situation. He was really strong and I don’t know if someone could have actually followed him today.”
The winner of stages six and nine doesn’t lack any confidence and it’s clear to see why. When the roads tilt towards the heavens, Riccardo Ricco has the power to make the mountains seem like flat terrain. He’s achieved some objectives but there are other things he’d like to take care of before the end of the Tour.
“I had told you the other day that I would win another one. Make not doubt about it, I’m the happiest man in the world but you better not take too much from my wins because I still want to help Piepoli get one as well. 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 and that set things up for me to make a strong attack at just the time when the other teams were easing up from the effort of the chase. Leonardo is in good form and I’ll try and help him succeed at Hautacam.
“I don’t mind about the losses in the time trial, I’m already happy with what I’ve done already in this Tour but I’m not the sort of rider who just gives up. I’ll keep on riding hard and who knows what might come from that? Maybe even better things are possible.
“It was not part of the plan to attack when I did it was just a spur of the moment decision and when I went, I was really impressive; I was so fast. The mountains are my domain and it’s great to be able to perform so well.”
There has been a slight reshuffle in the top order of the general classification but not as much as we can expect tomorrow. Still, it is a day of celebration for Riccardo Ricco who has won his second Tour de France stage in four days.
The top 10 in the stage from Toulouse to Bagneres-de-Bigorre is:
1. Riccardo Ricco (ITA) SDV - 224km in 5h39’28"
2. Vladimir Efimkin (RUS) ALM - at 1’04"
3. Cyril Dessel (FRA) ALM at 1’17"
4. Dmitriy Fofonov (KAZ) C.A at 1’17"
5. Christian Knees (GER) MRM at 1’17"
6. Maxime Montfort (BEL) COF at 1’17"
7. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) GCE at 1’17"
8. Roman Kreuziger (CZE) LIQ at 1’17"
9. Damiano Cunego (ITA) LAM at 1’17"
10. Yarsoslav Popovych (UKR) SIL at 1’17"
There were about 35 riders in the yellow jersey’s peloton that finished 1’17" behind Riccardo Ricco.
Riccardo Ricco has won his second Tour stage in four days. The winner of stage six has beaten Vladimir Efimkin by 1’03".
Riccardo Ricco has raced under the ’flamme rouge’ and is about to begin his victory celebrations. He has a lead of 1’00" on Vladimir Efimkin and is moving up the rankings in the mountains classification but for now, he’s going to enjoy his second victory in four days.
Efimkin is 1’00" behind the stage leader and 10" ahead of the peloton.