Majka Wins Stage 17 of Tour de France
Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) has won Stage 17 of the Tour de France 2014. The Pole took his second stage win of this Tour, as well as his team’s second consecutive stage win, by surging into the lead on the hors categorie climb to the finish. The Tinkoff-Saxo Bank man won the stage in 3:35:23, with Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana - Specialized bikes) finishing second and third, respectively, at 0:29 and 0:46. Nibali used the 124.5-km mountain stage from Saint-Gaudens to Saint-Lary-Soulan Pia d'Adet to hammer more nails into the coffins of his competition and extend his overall lead.
From the start, the racing was aggressive. Cyril Gautier and Yukio Arashiro (both from Europcar), Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp), Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Biel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Jens Voigt (Trek), and Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) formed the break of the day. Katusha went to the front of the peloton on behalf of Joaquim Rodriguez, who was second in the mountain competition. The escapees never led the field by more than a minute.
On the day’s first climb, the Category 1 Col de Portillon, Astana led the bunch. Rodriguez attacked from the peloton to join the break, which was disintegrating. He took a number of riders with him, and his bridging up to the break created a 21-man lead group. Among the leaders was Majka, who led the mountain competition by one point. He and Rodriguez sparred with each other until Tinkoff-Saxo Bank maestro Bjarne Riis called him back. At this point, a lead group that consisted of Rodriguez, Bauke Mollema (Belkin), Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida), David Lopez (Sky), and Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) formed. At the summit, the Rodriguez group led a large chase group, with the peloton, which was shedding riders, about a minute in arrears.
On the descent, the chase group bridged up to the lead group. The new lead group consisted of Pierre Rolland, Gautier, and Arashiro (all from Europcar); Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol); Frank Schleck (Trek); Peter Velits and Amael Moinard (both from BMC); Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano); Jakob Fuglsang (Astana); Jon Izagirre, Jesus Herrada, and Giovanni Visconti (all from Movistar); David Lopez Garcia and Vasili Kiryienka (both from Sky); Biel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale); Rein Taaramae (Cofidis); Bauke Mollema (Belkin); Majka and Nicolas Roche (both from Tinkoff-Saxo Bank); Rodríguez (Katusha), Durasek (Lampre-Merida); and De Marchi (Cannondale). At the base of the descent, the break led the bunch by 1:42.
Kiriyienka attacked. On the Category 1 Col de Peyresourde, the Sky man led the closest chase group by 1:30 and the peloton by 2:58. Mollema attacked the rest of the break, and Roche and Herrada attempted to bridge up to Kiriyienka. At the summit, the Belarusian led a chase group that contained Rodriguez and Majka by 1:48 and the peloton by more than four minutes. The Rodriguez group caught Roche and Herrada on the approach to the day’s penultimate climb, the Category 1 Col du Val Louron-Azet.
On the Col du Val Louron-Azet, the race began to knot up. The Rodriguez group caught Kiriyienka, while behind, the maillot jaune group, which was down to 10 riders, closed to within 2:41 of the leaders. At the base of the climb to the finish, Roche, Moinard, Visconti, and Rolland led the field.
With nine km left, Visconti attacked. Behind, Majka attacked from the Rodriguez group. He dropped Rodriguez with 7.5 km left and set out after Visconti. The Pole caught the Italian with 4.2 km remaining, and the two cooperated for a time. With 2.4 km to go, Majka brought the hammer down, and Visconti had no answer. The Tinkoff-Saxo Bank man enjoyed his ride to the finish line, winking twice at French television cameras and thrusting his fists to the skies.
Behind, the GC battle heated up. On the descent of the Val Louron, Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who was battling teammate Jean-Christophe Peraud and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) for a place on the podium, attacked from the maillot jaune group. The Frenchman forged a 30-second lead, but Peraud attacked with 5.5 km left, and Nibali joined him in catching Bardet. Nibali and Peraud caught and dropped Rodriguez. With three km left, the pair trailed Visconti and Majka by 1:30 and led Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Pinot, and Bardet by 0:08.
At the end of the stage, Nibali had extended his lead over all of his rivals except Peraud. The Italian finished 0:49 ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar); 0:54 ahead of Pinot, Bardet, and van Garderen; and 0:26 ahead of Mollema. Today, matters were as they have been through most of this Tour. No one can stay with Nibali.
Majka wanted to cement his hold on the polka dot jersey. Riis advised him to concentrate on winning the stage, which increased the Pole’s lead in the mountain competition. According to Majka, “Bjarne said to me, ‘If you win the stage, you’ll secure the jersey for now.’ So it was really important for me to get in the breakaway. I only thought about getting up the last climb as the first man, because that was the key to winning the stage and securing the points for the jersey. Today, I proved to myself that if I attack early on, my chances of winning are bigger. I really like the Tour because the weather suits me really well and I feel really strong.”
In the overall, Nibali leads Valverde by 5:26 and Pinot by 6:00. Stage 18 will be the final mountain stage of the 2014 Tour de France. The 145.5-km ride from Pau to Hautacam will take the riders up two hors categorie climbs, including the one to the finish. The GC fight will resume on the ascent to Hautacam. Who will win? Nibali? Pinot? Peraud? Majka? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out! Be sure to visit our videos section on Sunday, July 27 to watch video highlights from the one day women's race La Course by Le Tour de France.