Kirchen on all fronts

Luxemburger Kim Kirchen is currently wearing the green jersey of best sprinter, but the possible...

Luxemburger Kim Kirchen is currently wearing the green jersey of best sprinter, but the possible aims of the Columbia rider reach much further than 'just' this jersey. Kirchen has proved in the recent past that he is a man to be counted on when it comes to climbing - even high mountains - and time trialling, so he has every reason to target the yellow jersey of overall leader during this Tour de France, and even eye a possible podium finish on the Champs Elysées in the near future.

Kirchen is currently ranked second overall behind Stefan Schumacher, at only 12 seconds of the lead. The finish to Super-Besse today suits the 2008 winner of the Flèche Wallonne: his abilities in the mountains have significantly improved, and he also has that fast edge especially in uphill finishes.

"To me, Kirchen could well take the yellow jersey all the way to Paris," even boasted five-times Tour winner Bernard Hinault to Dutch Telegraaf. It remains to be seen how the Luxemburger will deal with the mountains in the company of specialists like Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and the Schleck brothers (CSC Saxo Bank). Still, he finished seventh overall in last year's Tour and even won stage 16 [after Alexandre Vinokourov was officially stripped of his win because of blood doping - ed.].

His second place in the time trial two days ago once again confirmed his excellent skills against the clock, which he could repeat on the penultimate stage in Saint-Amand a little more than two weeks from now. "He did some wind tunnel testing and we improved his position," commented team manager Bob Stapleton.

But for the moment, Kirchen also feels comfortable with the green jersey: "All jerseys are good to me," he told L'Equipe. While he may not be a top contender for sprint finishes, this year's trophy for the best points finisher can also be won in the mountains. "He will take the points in the mountains - where the sprinters can't get them," said Crédit Agricole manager Roger Legeay, conscious of the threat Kirchen represents for Thor Hushovd. "A complete rider can win the green this year."

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