July 17, 2008
Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Ricco?
Current King of the Mountains and white jersey leader Riccardo Ricco of Saunier Duval is the latest to test positive for erythropoeitin (EPO) at the Tour. His Saunier Duval team, which had three stage wins so far, withdrew before today's Stage 12.
Ricco tested positive at the 4th stage, last week's time trial. Ricco won Stage 6 and Stage 9, and was sitting in 9th overall, with the Alps yet to come. He also was 2nd in this year's Giro d'Italia.
I've seen a couple of sites suggest EPO is a retro performance enhancer, but apparently Ricco was positive for CERA (Continuous Erythropoeitin Receptor Activator), a 3rd generation version of the drug that's been called “Super EPO”.
"This is a decision of the team and is not dictated by (Tour organisers) ASO," Saunier Duval sports director Matxin Fernandez said.
"We suspend the activities of the team until we understand what has happened," Fernandez added.
Hope the headline reference isn't too obscure.
July 13, 2008
Ricco shows his strength
Riccardo Ricco of Saunier Duval took a dominant stage win as the Tour finally reached the high mountains on Stage 9.
On the steepest part of the Col d'Aspin, Ricco launched from the field through a chase group, then right past Sebastian Lang, who had been in a lead group all day long.
Ricco managed to hold off the entire field on a 28-kilometer descent to the finish, for his 2nd win of the Tour. Ricco is seen by Italian fans as a successor to Marco Pantani, the great Italian climber.
Ricco's teammate David de la Fuente holds onto the King of the Mountains jersey, but it looks like that's Ricco's jersey to lose between now and Paris at this point. Next year, he's got to be a Tour favorite.
Stage 9 Results:
1) Riccardo Ricco, Saunier Duval 5:39:28
2) Vladimir Efimkin, AG2R @ 1:04
3) Cyril Dessel, AG2R @1:17
4) Dmitri Fofonov, Credit Agricole, same time
5) Christian Knees, Milram, s.t.
6) Maxime Monfort, Cofidis, s.t.
7) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, s.t.
8) Roman Kreuziger, Liquigas, s.t.
9) Damiano Cunego, Lampre, s.t.
10) Yaroslav Popovych, Silence-Lotto, s.t.
In the GC, Stefan Schumacher lost time to the overall leaders, as did David Millar and Thomas Lövkvist. That moves Garmin-Chipotle's Christian Vande Velde up into 3rd overall, 44 seconds behind Columbia's Kim Kirchen.
General Classification after Stage 9:
1) Kim Kirchen, Team Columbia, 38:07:19
2) Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, @ :06
3) Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Chipotle, @ :44
4) Stefan Schumacher, Gerolsteiner, @ :56
5) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, @ 1:03
6) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, @ 1:12 7) Stijn Devolder, Quick Step, @ 1:21 8) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, @ 1:21 9) Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, @ 1:27 10) Carlos Sastre, CSC-Saxo Bank, @ 1:34
Kim Kirchen keeps the yellow jersey and retakes the lead in the green jersey competition. Lövkvist loses the white jersey to Andy Schleck.
Stage 9 on the road
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Three riders went out with about 20 kilometers ridden, and have led since: Nicolas Jalabert of AG2R, Sebastian Lang of Gerolsteiner, and Aleksandr Kuschynski of Liquigas. They've collected the day's early premiums.
1) Kuschynski +6 pts
2) Jalabert +4 pts
3) Lang +2 pts
Climb 1, 4th Category
1) Lang +3 pts
2) Kuschynski +2 pts
3) Nicolas Jalabert +1 pt
Climb 2, 4th Category
1) Lang +3 pts
2) Jalabert +2 pts
3) Kuschynski +1 pt
The gap went out to 14:20, but Euskaltel-Euskadi moved to the front of the peloton and have been slowly closing it down.
Climb 3, 4th Category Cote de Mane
1) Lang +3 pts
2) Jalabert, +2 pts
3) Kuschynski +1 pts
1) Jalabert +6 pts
2) Kuschynski +4 pts
3) Lang +2 pts
Climb 4, 4th Category
1) Lang +3 pts
2) Kuschynski, +2 pts
3) Jalabert +1 pt
Cadel Evans was mixed up in a fall with Gorko Verdugo with around 111 km to ride. His jersey and shorts were torn, and his left elbow bleeding, but his team quickly gathered to shepherd him back to the field.
Climbing up to the Col des Ares, a 3rd Category climb, the gap is about 11 minutes to the 3 leaders.
Col des Ares, 3rd Category
1) Lang +4 pts
2) Kuschynski +3 pts
3) Jalabert +2 pts
4) Samuel Dumoulin, Cofidis, +1 pt
Dumoulin attacked from the field to deny David de la Fuente the opportunity to extend his lead in the polka-dot jersey competition over Dumoulin's teammate Sylvain Chavanel.
On the Col de la Peyresourde, the field was whittled down to around 40 riders, inclduing all the big contenders, while Lang, Kushcynski and Jalabert separated. Felix Cardenas of Barloworld tried an attack, but was quicly reeled back in. On the upper few kilometers, Maxime Monfort of Cofidis attacked, matched by current KoM David de la Fuente, who took 4th over the top of the Peyresourde to hold the jersey, pending results on the Col d'Aspin.
Col de Peyresourde, 1st Category
1) Lang +15 pts
2) Kuschynski +13 pts @ :40
3) Jalabert +11 pts @ 3:40
4) de la Fuente +9 pts @4:50
5) Monfort +8 pts same time
6) Luis Sanchez +7 pts @5:25
7) Mikel Astarloza +6 pts same time
8) Matteo Carrerra +5 pts s.t.
On the Col d'Aspin, a number of testing attacks went off, but nothing stuck until Saunier Duval's Riccardo Ricco turboed off the field, streaking past the chase groups, then Lang like he was in reverse.
Ricco is first to the top of the Col d'Aspin, collecting double points. Lang survives to take 2nd at the top, but the field is close behind.
Col d'Aspin, 1st Category
1) Riccardo Ricco +30
2) Sebastian Lang +26 @:35
3) Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner +22 @1:15
4) David de la Fuente +18 5) Vincenzo Nibali +16
6) Oscar Pereiro +14
7) Denis Menchov +12
8) Luis Sanchez +10
David de la Fuente saves his polka-dot jersey lead for at least one more night.
Ricco bombs the downhill. The peloton hasn't made a dent in his lead. A couple of attempted breaks from the chase failed, until AG2R's Vladimir Efimkin attacked through one, and slowly built a gap.
Ricco takes his 2nd stage, ahead of Efimkin.
Stage 9 preview
Today's the first taste of the Tour's big climbs, as the race reaches the Pyrenees, with two 1st Category climbs in the day's final 60 kilometers. The finish is a downhil run into Bagnères de Bigorre.
The big climbs will definitely thin out the field, but that finishing descent will give chasers a good chance to bring time on the leader(s) over the Col d'Aspin, the 2nd big climb.
Current jersey leaders:
Kim Kirchen, Columbia
Oscar Freire, Rabobank
Thomas Lövkvist, Columbia
David de la Fuente, Saunier Duval
On Versus, Craig Hummer continues to lead the commentator pick contest. Today, Sherwen takes Fränk Schleck, Liggett takes Samuel Sanchez, Roll takes Kim Kirchen, and Hummer takes Valverde.