Riccardo Ricco produced a textbook ascent and descent of the Col d'Aspin to win his second stage of this year's Tour de France yesterday. Known as 'The Cobra' for the way he attacks his opponents, the rider who had won stage six on Thursday surged away from the main leaders on the second major climb of the day. And he managed to stay clear on the rapid and treacherous descent to Bagneres-de-Bigorre to win stage nine and stake his claim for overall victory in the race.
While Ricco climbed up the general classification as a result of his superb performance, it failed to affect the race lead and Kim Kirchen will wear the yellow jersey for a fourth consecutive day. Perhaps the most telling moment of the day, however, was a fall involving Cadel Evans, the pre-race favourite, which left the Australian rider with grazes along his left arm and leg. More worryingly, he had his collarbone inspected by the race doctor as he rode, but he continued to finish the stage with the main protagonists.
It remains to be seen how he recovers from the injuries sustained overnight, but Alejandro Valverde and his Caisse d'Epargne team, who put Evans under pressure up the Col d'Aspin, will be buoyed ahead of today's 156-kilometre stage from Pau to Hautacam. @Email:email@example.com