By Jean-François Quénet in Spoleto
Credit Agricole's Christophe Kern made the successful breakaway in stage six of the Giro, and while he couldn't contend for the win, he held on for third place - a result that will go a long way toward his goal of being selected for the Tour de France squad. Last year with Bouygues Telecom, Kern was left off the Tour de France team although he came in third in the French time trial championship, and the last spot was given to veteran Laurent Brochard who was injured and couldn't finish. Then Kern decided to quit Jean-René Bernaudeau's organisation and his mate Voeckler to see if he could get more opportunities at Crédit Agricole.
"Apart from our leaders, there are still some spots available for the Tour de France this year and I'm up for it", the 26 years old said on the finishing line of Spoleto, but he had mixed feelings with coming third. "I haven't won - but it's been a while since I was in the front in a breakaway like that. Actually, this was the first day we were allowed to go away. In the previous stages, we had to protect Thor Hushovd and our staff knew that breaking clear was useless. We didn't want to spend energy for nothing."
The French outfit had an idea - getting their Italian climber Pietro Caucchioli in the break for the king of the mountains classification, but Kern was the one who made it. "I was the first to launch the 23 men breakaway and I insisted later, that's how we made a group of 5 in the front. I was afraid of that section at 16%. I had seen that the Panaria rider [stage winner Luis Felipe Laverde, ed.] was easy in the hills and I knew that he and Marco Pinotti were good in the downhills. I had to come across before the top of the last climb, otherwise it was game over." It was, indeed.
Crédit Agricole ended stage six with a nice result after starting without Patrice Halgand who had crashed the day before and hurt the collarbone that he broke last winter. He came to the start in Tivoli and put a number on the back of his jersey, but he quickly realized he'd be a non starter. "For the coming stages, we'll race for Hushovd", Kern said.
The Frenchman whose original speciality is time trialling is also keen to test himself on the penultimate stage against the clock from Bardolino to Verona. The town of Romeo and Juliet is exactly where he got the bronze medal at the Junior world championship road race when he won the sprint for third place and thought he had actually won the title. Cunego, the rainbow jersey that day, has gone much further than him in the hierarchy of cycling since, but Kern hasn't had his last words yet.