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Riccò delivers on promise ahead of maillot jaune scuffle

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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott)

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) (Image credit: AFP)
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Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) hits the deck

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) hits the deck (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde gave it all he could

Alejandro Valverde gave it all he could (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Tour director Christian Prudhomme

Tour director Christian Prudhomme (Image credit: AFP)
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The three Frenchmen working hard in the day's break

The three Frenchmen working hard in the day's break (Image credit: AFP)
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Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux)

Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) (Image credit: AFP)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott)

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) (Image credit: AFP)
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Kim Kirchen (Columbia)

Kim Kirchen (Columbia) (Image credit: AFP)
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Tour director Christian Prudhomme (R) was joined by Prince Albert II of Monaco in the red Skoda today.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme (R) was joined by Prince Albert II of Monaco in the red Skoda today. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The three Frenchmen working hard in the day's break (l-r): Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) and Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux).

The three Frenchmen working hard in the day's break (l-r): Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) and Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux). (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) drives the all-French breakaway on stage six.

Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) drives the all-French breakaway on stage six. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) hammers up the finish.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) hammers up the finish. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) beats Valverde and Evans to the line at Super Besse.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) beats Valverde and Evans to the line at Super Besse. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The Italian celebrates his first Tour stage win.

The Italian celebrates his first Tour stage win. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Riccò brushed off any comparisons to his idol Marco Pantani.

Riccò brushed off any comparisons to his idol Marco Pantani. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Kim Kirchen (Columbia) is the new leader of the Tour de France.

Kim Kirchen (Columbia) is the new leader of the Tour de France. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Kirchen has now held both the green and yellow jerseys at this year's Tour.

Kirchen has now held both the green and yellow jerseys at this year's Tour. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Kirchen will hope to keep the jersey at least until Monday's stage to Hautacam.

Kirchen will hope to keep the jersey at least until Monday's stage to Hautacam. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The favourites round the final corner all together at 300 metres to go.

The favourites round the final corner all together at 300 metres to go. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Valverde was heavily bandaged on his right side after yesterday's crash in the feed zone.

Valverde was heavily bandaged on his right side after yesterday's crash in the feed zone. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) hits the deck after touching wheels with Kim Kirchen.

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) hits the deck after touching wheels with Kim Kirchen. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Moises Dueñas Nevado (Barloworld) and Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank) swerve to avoid the fallen yellow jersey.

Moises Dueñas Nevado (Barloworld) and Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank) swerve to avoid the fallen yellow jersey. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Schumacher's team-mate Bernhard Kohl then falls on top of him.

Schumacher's team-mate Bernhard Kohl then falls on top of him. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The German begins to pick himself up, knowing the jersey is gone.

The German begins to pick himself up, knowing the jersey is gone. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) was comfortably ahead in the final metres

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) was comfortably ahead in the final metres (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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And takes the stage with apparent ease from Valverde and Evans.

And takes the stage with apparent ease from Valverde and Evans. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Moises Dueñas Nevado (Barloworld) comes in seventh.

Moises Dueñas Nevado (Barloworld) comes in seventh. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre) was dropped on the climb and lost 32 seconds.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) was dropped on the climb and lost 32 seconds. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccò receives congratulations from team-mate Leonardo Piepoli.

Riccò receives congratulations from team-mate Leonardo Piepoli. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Kim Kirchen (Columbia) spent one day in his regular jersey before exchanging it for yellow.

Kim Kirchen (Columbia) spent one day in his regular jersey before exchanging it for yellow. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Luxemburger will hope to hold it until the Pyrenees at least.

The Luxemburger will hope to hold it until the Pyrenees at least. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The jersey gets a kiss from its new owner.

The jersey gets a kiss from its new owner. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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As does the souvenir lion!

As does the souvenir lion! (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Kirchen salutes the crowd at the Super Besse ski station.

Kirchen salutes the crowd at the Super Besse ski station. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Which way to Besse?

Which way to Besse? (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Under the 15 kilometre banner. The climb begins at Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise with 11 kilometres remaining.

Under the 15 kilometre banner. The climb begins at Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise with 11 kilometres remaining. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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The road ramps up with 1300 metres remaining.

The road ramps up with 1300 metres remaining. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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The flamme rouge indicates one kilometre to the finish.

The flamme rouge indicates one kilometre to the finish. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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With 500 metres to go the gradient shallows once more.

With 500 metres to go the gradient shallows once more. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Crystal clear skies will greet the riders when they climb up to Super Besse today.

Crystal clear skies will greet the riders when they climb up to Super Besse today. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Gendarmes keep an eye on the final 200 metres.

Gendarmes keep an eye on the final 200 metres. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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The tough finish in Super-Besse was perfect for Riccardo Riccò.

The tough finish in Super-Besse was perfect for Riccardo Riccò. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Evans and Valverde chase after Riccò but couldn't hold his wheel.

Evans and Valverde chase after Riccò but couldn't hold his wheel. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval) celebrates after winning stage six to Super Besse.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval) celebrates after winning stage six to Super Besse. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Riccardo Riccò takes his first Tour stage win.

Riccardo Riccò takes his first Tour stage win. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Alejandro Valverde gave it all he could but couldn't match the pace of Ricco' on the final climb.

Alejandro Valverde gave it all he could but couldn't match the pace of Ricco' on the final climb. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) rode well to finish sixth.

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) rode well to finish sixth. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) showed his climbing abilities on Super-Besse.

Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) showed his climbing abilities on Super-Besse. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Stefan Schumacher's time in yellow ended when he crashed in the final kilometre on Super-Besse.

Stefan Schumacher's time in yellow ended when he crashed in the final kilometre on Super-Besse. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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David Millar's dreams of yellow ended on the climb to Super-Besse

David Millar's dreams of yellow ended on the climb to Super-Besse (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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The Saunier Duval spare bikes are ready for stage six.

The Saunier Duval spare bikes are ready for stage six. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) is interviewed before the start of stage six.

Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) is interviewed before the start of stage six. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Haimar Zubeldia (Euskalte-Euskadi) obliges the French fans with autographs.

Haimar Zubeldia (Euskalte-Euskadi) obliges the French fans with autographs. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Markus Burghardt (Team Columbia) gets ready for more hard work on stage six.

Markus Burghardt (Team Columbia) gets ready for more hard work on stage six. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Nikolas Vogondy, the French champion signs autographs.

Nikolas Vogondy, the French champion signs autographs. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Vladimir Efimkin put in a brilliant attack on the final climb, but couldn't hold the effort.

Vladimir Efimkin put in a brilliant attack on the final climb, but couldn't hold the effort. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) and Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) enjoy the sunny start to stage six.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) and Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) enjoy the sunny start to stage six. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) signs autographs before the stage.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) signs autographs before the stage. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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A kiss for the lion from Kim Kirchen.

A kiss for the lion from Kim Kirchen. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Kim Kirchen takes the spoils of the yellow jersey podium.

Kim Kirchen takes the spoils of the yellow jersey podium. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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No longer 'Grim Kim', Kirchen couldn't help by smile after getting the yellow jersey.

No longer 'Grim Kim', Kirchen couldn't help by smile after getting the yellow jersey. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Kirchen is savouring his victory in both the GC and points classifications.

Kirchen is savouring his victory in both the GC and points classifications. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Kim Kirchen (Columbia) took over the green jersey, but Thor Hushovd will wear it as long as Kirchen is in yellow.

Kim Kirchen (Columbia) took over the green jersey, but Thor Hushovd will wear it as long as Kirchen is in yellow. (Image credit: flamme rouge)
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Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) gained the polka dot jersey after being in the break of the day and taking all of the early climbs.

Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) gained the polka dot jersey after being in the break of the day and taking all of the early climbs. (Image credit: flamme rouge)

Kirchen takes lead from roughed up Schumacher

Italy's Riccardo Riccò followed through on his promise to win the Tour de France's Super Besse stage with an uphill charge finishing ahead of Alejandro Valverde and Cadel Evans. Behind him the rest raced for the prestigious maillot jaune.

The finish was overshadowed by a crash by yellow jersey wearer Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), who was in the lead group in the final kilometre, but touched wheels and crashed to the pavement. Official do not apply the same time rule for crash victims on hilltop finishes, so the German lost his overall lead to Kim Kirchen (Columbia) who finished fifth behind compatriot Fränk Schleck.

"I came here to gain experience and to win a stage," said Riccò of Team Saunier Duval. The experience of winning ahead of cycling's biggest names, Valverde of Team Caisse d'Epargne, Evans of Silence Lotto and Frank Schleck of CSC – will provide confidence for the fiery 24 year-old.

Free from the battle for the maillot jaune taking place in his wake, Riccò charged up the final 200 metres of Route de Besse. After Schumacher clipped the rear wheel of Team Columbia's Kirchen and fell on his left side, the 28 year-old Schleck accelerated forward. Schleck, who won the 2006 Alpe d'Huez stage, attacked, passing Riccò and then Valverde. Riccò responded immediately and moved up the left side of the road with Valverde and Evans in tow.

Schleck drifted back on road's right while Kirchen bridged to his compatriot. Kirchen's efforts gave him the race leader's yellow jersey with six seconds overall on Evans and 16 seconds on Schumacher, who struggled to finish in 25th place.

Schumacher blamed the new race leader for his tumble. "I am very surprised to hear that," said Kirchen after being fitted for his maillot jaune. "I tried to move up on the right side. The guy in front of me [Valverde - ed.] braked and I had to brake too, there was not much I could do," said Kirchen, who also moved back into the maillot vert of the points leader although Thor Hushovd will wear the green in stage seven on Thursday while Kirchen wears yellow.

"The consequences are that I crashed and lost time, and Kim made a move and I had no chance – I couldn't avoid it," a disappointed Schumacher said after crossing the line. Schumacher, a 26 year-old German, won the 2006 Benelux Tour in a similar fashion when previous race leader George Hincapie crashed following the pair's entanglement.

Like Kirchen and Riccò, Valverde concluded the first of the Tour's five mountaintop finishes on a positive note. His Caisse d'Epargne team put the hammer down over the final 20 kilometres, including the 11-kilometre romp up Super Besse. None other than 2006 Tour winner Oscar Pereiro finished off the work for Caisse's captain. Along with David Arroyo, he shut down the escaped duo of the USA's Christian Vande Velde and Italy's Leonardo Piepoli.

"I really have to thank my team-mates," noted Valverde. "Considering my crash of yesterday and the fact that I slept only two hours last night, ... I think that I must be satisfied with my stage."

Vande Velde of Team Garmin Chipotle launched his way up the classification with his attack at five kilometres out. He was joined by Riccò's main gun, Piepoli, for a move that lasted 3,800 metres. Vande Velde held on to finish 23 seconds back and is now fourth (at 44") on in the classification behind Schumacher.

"The attacked was planned," said Vande Velde, whose intentions were try to help team-mate Millar move into the yellow jersey. "My legs felt great, but with Piepoli I found myself a little out gunned." Millar lost time and now sits fifth overall, three seconds behind his team-mate Vande Velde.

By finishing third on the stage and ending up second overall by just six seconds behind Kirchen, Evans made a huge impression with his staying power today. He played defence, as he had to do. He held on to the winning express while his closest contender heading into the stage, Denis Menchov (Rabobank), came in another six seconds later. In the GC, Evans now sits ten seconds ahead of the unfortunate Schumacher.

"I expected Valverde to accelerate. It was the same situation as the first day," said a happy Evans. "There were two main objectives: not to lose time on guys like Valverde and to gain time on other guys if it is possible. I saw that I gained time on Menchov and Cunego."

Cunego finished 32 seconds back and now is 1'42" back on the overall, in 14th place.

The day's breakaway belonged again to three Frenchmen. This time it was Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) and Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux). Chavanel took over the lead in the mountains classification, where he is tied on points with Thomas Voeckler.

How it unfolded

The start in Aigurande was taken by 176 riders at 12.25pm. One more rider to bail out of the race was Aurélien Passeron from Saunier Duval, who had crashed into a spectator yesterday. Under a beautiful sky and in warm temperatures, the peloton took off on the 195.5km journey to Super Besse.

Quickly, breakaway attempts moved off the front, with three Frenchmen finally managing to jump away: Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) and Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux). Chavanel was the one to initiate the escape at km 6, while Bichot and Vaugrenard countered soon after to join him.

Three more riders tried to make it to the leaders, but failed: Stéphane Goubert (AG2R), John Lee Augustyn (Barloworld) and Danny Pate (Garmin-Chipotle). The gap grew continuously. After 33 kilometres, it was already over two minutes.

At km 57, the leaders had 4'50 advantage over the bunch. On the Côte de l'Armelle (Cat. 4, km 70), Chavanel took the points before Vaugrenard and Bichot. The Cofidis rider was out to get the polka dot jersey today.

The trio was given a maximum advantage of five minutes at the summit of the first categorized climb - after that, their lead started to shrink. By the Côte de Crocq (Cat 4, km 89), taken again by Chavanel, the peloton was 4'15 behind.

By the feed zone (km 111), the bunch led by Gerolsteiner was just 3'20 behind. The German squad wanted to keep Stefan Schumacher's yellow jersey, with the other teams also looking forward to a showdown of the GC favourites later on Super Besse. While grabbing his musette, Florent Brard (Cofidis) crashed, but was not hurt badly.

With 76km to go, Cadel Evans had a mechanical, but it was quickly fixed. A bit of rain came down on the riders, but it soon stopped again.

When the escape group got to the foot of the first Cat 2 climb of this year's Tour, the Col de la Croix-Morand (km 158), their advantage was a mere two minutes. Chavanel accelerated with six kilometres to go before the summit and dropped Vaugrenard.

Out of the bunch came Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole) but he was reeled in before the summit, together with Vaugrenard. Chavanel remained in front, together with Bichot, while polka dot jersey wearer Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) came out of the peloton to defend his mountains lead in the final metres before the KOM. He claimed third place, 56 seconds behind the two leaders.

On the climb, a sprinter's autobus formed around green jersey Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), which was almost four minutes back as the favourites geared up for the final ascent to Super Besse.

With 25 kilometres to go, Bichot accelerated, but Chavanel stayed put. But the bunch was only half a minute away, so Chavanel ended his effort and waited for the peloton five kilometres later. Bichot insisted and held an advantage of 25 seconds.

With 18 kilometres to the line, Crédit Agricole's Alexandre Botcharov tried to bridge up to Bichot but failed. He was swallowed by the bunch - led out by Caisse d'Epargne - three clicks later. Bichot himself finally surrendered with 13km to go.

With 11 km to the line, French champ Nicolas Vogondy went down, as well as Erik Zabel, but both were able to continue. Now started a series of attacks that were all countered by a favourites-led group that got decimated in number as the kilometres went by and Caisse d'Epargne maintained a furious rhythm.

First, Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues Telecom) attacked with Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), but they didn't go far. Next up were Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole) and Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), with David Moncoutié (Cofidis) bridging up to them a little later. Efimkin and Moncoutié managed to hold a gap, while the others were reeled in.

With five kilometres to go, Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval) and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin) countered. Moncoutié couldn't hold the pace, and neither could Efimkin. Piepoli and Vande Velde continued and hit the steep section of the climb with 1.5km to go just before getting caught again.

Caisse d'Epargne led the favourites group through the flamme rouge. Evans, Valverde, Ricco, Sastre and Kirchen were in front watching each other, with Cunego getting dropped. As they began to sprint, yellow jersey Schumacher crashed 300 metres from the line after touching Kirchen's rear wheel. He was quickly up again, but lost some time.

Ricco outsprinted everyone and led Valverde and Evans over the line. Frank Schleck came in fourth, with Kirchen finishing fifth and therefore taking the yellow jersey from the German.

Stage 7 - Friday, July 11: Brioude - Aurillac, 159km

Stage seven will mark the Tour's second day in France's Massif Central. Despite being on of the shortest stages of the race, it will be no easy day for the peloton. Like the previous stage, the course will be nervous as it traverses the twisting and rolling roads of this part of the country. There will be very little flat riding all day, but the main obstacle will be the second category Pas de Peyrol (Puy Mary) with 42 kilometres remaining.

The historic city of Brioude is another of this year's first-time stage towns, but Aurillac has been visited six times before. The last time the Tour finished here was 1985, and the 237.5-kilometre stage from Saint-Étienne was won by Spain's Eduardo Chozas. Race leader Bernard Hinault had crashed in the sprint on the previous stage and was riding to his fifth overall victory with a fractured nose.

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