Majka Surges to Victory in Stage 11 of Tour de France
Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) has picked up where he left off at the 2014 Tour de France. The Pole, who took two stages and the King of the Mountains competition last year, jumped into the break of the day and jumped away from it on the Col du Tourmalet to take the mountainous, 188-km ride from Pau to Cauterets in 5:02:01. Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) finished second at 1:00, and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Argon 18) finished third at 1:23. Chris Froome (Sky) remains the maillot jaune.
From the start, the racing was as hot as the temperature (36 degrees Celsius). Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step), Bob Jungels (Trek), and Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) made an early break, but the peloton shut it down at 47 km. The peloton split, and the attacks continued. Sky snuffed out a 22-man break that included Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).
At 75 km, Majka and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) attacked, and Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka), Steve Morabito (FDJ), and Buchmann joined them. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Julien Simon (Cofidis) bridged up to the move at 90 km, and Martin joined the move at 114 km, after Demare was dropped. At this point, the bunch led the break by six minutes.
At 140 km, Majka attacked. Astana took over at the front, and the Kazakh squad’s pacemaking reduced the yellow jersey group to 15 riders. At the summit, the Tinkoff-Saxo Bank man led Pauwels by 1:45, Buchmann by 2:00, Martin by 2:05, Voeckler and Simon by 4:05, Morabito by 5:20, and the yellow jersey group by 5:40.
On the descent, Pauwels pursued Majka, and the Belgian closed to within a minute and a quarter of the Pole with eight km left. He got no closer, however, and Martin and Buchmann passed the MTN-Qhubeka man in pursuit of Majka. The peloton rode in at 5:21.
Majka’s victory encouraged the Russian squad, which has lost Ivan Basso and Daniele Bennati and has seen its captain, Alberto Contador, drop out of contention. “I dedicate this win to my team and especially Ivan Basso and Daniele Bennati, who crashed today,” Majka said. “I only attacked once, but it was at the right moment. I was watching the other riders and noticed that many of them were suffering so I decided to attack. My teammates supported me to go in the breakaway and I told my sports directors that I wanted to attack already on the Tourmalet instead of waiting. I needed a hard climb to create a gap and I took nearly 1:30 on the Tourmalet. I’m very happy with this win and it is great for the morale on the team.”
Froome said that the stage was hard and that his team saw him through the hardest parts of it. “Today was an extremely tough stage,” the Sky man said. “Maybe it didn’t look so hard but I can tell you a lot of riders lost a lot of energy today.
“The breakaway took nearly two hours to form and then Astana made the race hard on the Tourmalet. My team were always there though and I still had Geraint [Thomas] and Richie [Porte] with me at the top. They did a fantastic job to carry me over the summit and I’ve had support every step of the way.
“I’m in a great position at the moment and have a great team around me. The best thing for us is to ride defensively now and try and follow the other contenders. The other teams need to make things happen and there’s a big battle going on for the GC positions. Guys were jumping around trying to get time on each other today, and we’re certainly expecting a big battle out there tomorrow.
“I’ve reconned that stage and the summit finish at Plateau de Beille is brutal, similar to yesterday’s stage. We’re expecting [Nairo] Quintana and [Alberto] Contador to attack, and I’ll play things how I see it out on the road.”
In the overall, Froome leads Tejay van Garderen (BMC) by 2:52 and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) by 3:09. Stage 12 will be a standing shaker. The 195-km slog from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille will feature two Category 1 ascents and the hors categorie climb to the finish. Expect a battle royal on the Plateau de Beille. Who will win? Quintana? Froome? Contador? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!