SUPER-BESSE, France - Kim Kirchen pulled on the yellow jersey at the Tour de France yesterday, the first Luxembourg rider in 50 years to lead cycling's showcase race.
He finished fifth in the sixth stage, which was won by Italy's Riccardo Ricco. Kirchen was seventh in the Tour last year and is simply happy to have the jersey for now.
"I've been a bit surprised by my shape," he said. "Now I want to take the race day by day. I want to see what happens in the Pyrenees. And if it goes well in the Pyrenees, we'll see in the Alps, and in Paris. Everything is possible."
The last Luxembourg rider to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour was Charly Gaul. He went on to win the 1958 race.
Ricco finished ahead of two top riders - Spain's Alejandro Valverde, who was heavily bandaged after a fall Wednesday, and Australia's Cadel Evans.
It was a bad day for the day's previous leader, Stefan Schumacher. The German touched Kirchen's back wheel yards from the line and crashed. He lost 28 seconds on Kirchen, the yellow jersey, and a bit of skin from his elbow and knee.
"It wasn't deliberate, of course," Schumacher said. "It's a pity. I was feeling strong today. My team worked hard."
Ricco captured a 122-mile stage through the peaks of the Massif Central from Aigurande to the ski resort of Super-Besse. Ricco, the Giro d'Italia runner-up, said he had come to this Tour to gain experience in hopes of a good finish next year.
Kirchen is six seconds ahead of Evans and 16 ahead of Schumacher. Christian Vandevelde of the United States is fourth, 44 seconds behind Kirchen. Valverde is eighth, 1:12 behind.