EPINAL, FRANCE, JULY 6 -- Christophe Lavainne of France won the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race today in 4 hours 12 minutes 57 seconds and Switzerland's Erich Maechler retained the overall leader's yellow jersey.

Mexico's Raul Alcala finished second, 1 minute 34 seconds behind Lavainne, a member of the Systeme U team. The performance by Alcala, who rides for the 7-Eleven team, is the best ever by a Mexican cyclist in the Tour.

Maechler's overall time is 17:10:49. Lavainne is runner-up, 36 seconds behind.

Jorg Muller, also of Switzerland, held third, 44 seconds back, and Italy's Giancarlo Perini was in fourth, 55 seconds off the lead.

The 105-mile stage between Strasbourg and Epinal took the competitors through the Vosges mountain passes. It was the first stage in France after five days in West Germany and marked the first mountain test for the 23 nine-man teams.

Ten riders, led by Frenchman Jean-Claude Bagot and including Lavainne and Alcala, moved ahead at the approach to the Col du Champ du Feu. At the Col de la Chipotte, the final climb, they were joined by Colombian Gerardo Moncada. The pack at some points was eight minutes behind the leaders.

"I saved my strength for the last 30 kilometers {19 miles}," Lavainne said.

Maechler, who finished in the pack, said that it was because of his Carrera team members that he kept the yellow jersey as the overall leader. "Without them, Christophe Lavainne would be wearing it tonight," he said.

The Carrera team is led by Stephen Roche of Ireland, Urs Zimmerman of Switzerland and Guido Bontempi of Italy. The team headed the pack in a chase to keep Maechler in the leader's yellow jersey.

Maechler said all riders, working in hot summer temperatures, were beginning to feel some fatigue.

The riders Tuesday face the hilly, 131-mile seventh stage westward to Troyes. The race ends July 26 in Paris.