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Ricco claims first stage in the Pyrenees

  • Story Highlights
  • Riccardo Ricco wins ninth stage of the Tour de France at Bagneres de Bigorre
  • Saunier Duval rider was claiming second stage win on this year's Tour
  • Kim Kirchen retains overall lead after finishing in the peloton at 1.17 down
  • Race favorite Cadel Evans suffers injuries in fall but does not lose time
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(CNN) -- The rising young star of Italian cycling Riccardo Ricco claimed his second victory of this year's Tour de France on the first day in the Pyrenees.

Ricco is enjoying a superb season with wins in the Giro D'Italia and Tour de France.

Ricco burst clear of a whittled down peloton containing all the major contenders on the Col D'Aspin and comfortably held a one minute four seconds advantage over Vladimir Efimkin by the finish.

Race leader Kim Kirchen finished in the pack at one minute 17 seconds down and retains his six second advantage over Cadel Evans of Australia.

Christian Vandevelde of the United States moved up to third overall, 44 seconds behind Kirchen.

Evans crashed about halfway into Sunday's 224-kilometer stage from Toulouse to Bagneres-de-Bigorre.

The Silence-Lotto team leader was treated for a series of nasty scrapes by the race doctor but was able to ride to the finish.

"It was obviously painful, but he immediately assured us that it was OK and that it was not something really bad," Marc Sargeant, Lotto's team director told the Associated Press.

"The doctor of the Tour assured us that it (the left shoulder) was not fractured. It is hurting him, but he was the first to say, 'It's OK, guys'. He's one of the best riders in this Tour, I'm pretty sure of that."

Saunier Duval's Ricco had served notice of his class by winning the sixth stage at Super Besse where he imperiously rode away from Spanish hope Alejandro Valverde and Evans on the final climb.

Having finished second in the Giro d'Italia, the 24-year-old cannot be discounted from the battle for overall honors although he is less proficient in time trials against the clock.

"It was totally improvised," Ricco told the Associated Press, adding that he jumped out when several rivals in the pack appeared vulnerable. "I went all out to the finish ... I was really fast today."

His victory sees him move up to 21st overall, but just two minutes 35 seconds down on Kirchen with major tests in the Pyrenees and Alps to come.

Monday's 156 kilometer stage from Pau with the imposing climbs of the Col de Tourmalet and Hautacam is likely to provide a firmer pointer to the eventual destination of the yellow jersey come the finish in Paris.

Team Columbia's Kirchen, who is also leading the points competition for the green jersey, is expected to come under further pressure for the race lead.

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