Majka wins again as Tinkoff-Saxo go back-to-back at Le Tour

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Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) has taken a second stage win at the 2014 Tour de France, winning solo on the uphill finish to Pla d’Adet on stage 17, just four days after his victory to Risoul.
Majka had been part of a 22-rider lead group that came together after descending the first of the day’s four climbs. On the final climb of the day Majka put in a series of attacks, eventually breaking clear to the head of the race with 4.2km to the summit and riding away to a second victory in as many days for Tinkoff-Saxo.

After the longest stage of the race yesterday, the riders were greeted with the shortest day on stage 17. Covering just 124km, the second day in the Pyrenees saw that riders face up to four categorised climbs: three first-category ascents and the hors categorie climb to Pla d’Adet to end the stage.

The race was off to a frenetic start with a group of eight riders getting away from the gun: Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp), Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling), Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Blel Kadri (AG2R-La Mondiale), Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) and Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Katusha had missed the break and with their man Joaquim Rodriguez just one point behind in the KOM classification, they were keen to have “Purito” in any moves that went up the road. The work of Luca Paolini on the front of the peloton saw the gap stay steady at less than a minute for much of the first hour.

The six leaders shared the significant points in the intermediate sprint with 93km to go, and when they reached the slopes of the first climb 75km from the finish, they had an advantage of 36 seconds.

That first climb to the Col du Portillon saw a great number of attacks that split up the peloton into multiple groups and expanded the breakaway. One such move was made by Joaquim Rodriguez who leapt out of the peloton and dragged Frank Schleck (Trek) and Mikel Cherel (Ag2r-La Mondiale) across to the lead group.

Many others would soon make their way across, including KOM classification leader Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), his teammate Nicolas Roche, Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida).

After moving to the front of the ever-expanding lead group with about 4km to the summit, Rodriguez attacked, dragging Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), Roche, and Durasek with him. They were soon joined by Bauke Mollema (Belkin) and David Lopez (Sky), the group of six crossing the first climb together, with Rodriguez taking the maximum points.

At that point, 67km from the finish, the six-rider group was followed by an 18-rider chase group 24 seconds back. The Astana-led peloton, meanwhile, was 1:15 behind the six leaders.

At the bottom of the descent in Luchon, where stage 16 ended, the lead group of six had been absorbed by the chase group, leaving 22 riders up front. No sooner had that group formed than Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) went on the attack, beginning the second climb of the day on his own.

With the Astana team of overall race leader Vincenzo Nibali taking it easy in the peloton, Kiryienka was allowed to build an advantage. With 50km to go the gap from the Belarusian to the peloton was three minutes with the chase group in between.

There was a series of attacks from within the chase group as the riders climbed towards the summit of the Col de Peyresourde but it wasn’t until 4km from the summit that a move stuck. Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) got away from the group with Jesus Herrada (Movistar) in his slipstream.

With 2km to the summit and 44.5km left in the day, Kiryienka had 1:43 over Roche and Herrada, 2:08 over the remainder of the chase group and five minutes over the peloton. The Sky rider took maximum points over the climb with his lead to the Nibali group out to 5:22, but the gap to the chase group was coming down. Joaquim Rodriguez attacked in the chase group to get second over the climb (and consolidate his virtual lead in the KOM classification) while then-leader Majka was third.

After descending off the Col de Peyresourde and with 30km left in the race, Roche and Herrada were caught by the ever-shrinking chase group. Most of the work was being done by Yukiya Arishiro (Europcar) who was working for his teammate Pierre Rolland.

With 27.8km remaining, and on the lower slopes of the Col de Val Louron-Azet, the gap from Kiryienka to the chase group was 1:05 and 5:10 to the peloton. and Ag2r-La Mondiale had both come to the front of the yellow jersey group to ride for the best young rider classification ambitions of Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet respectively.

With four kilometres to the top of the penultimate climb, Vasil Kiryenka started to show the first signs of weakness, grimacing as his advantage shrunk to 4:30. He was caught by the chase group of 13 riders just before the summit, thanks largely to the efforts of Nicolas Roche on the front.

Joaquim Rodriguez once again attacked to take 10 points over the top of the Col de Val Louron-Azet but in second place over the top, Rafal Majka was looking very ominous.

Meanwhile, a little further down the mountain, the Nibali group had been reduced to just 10 riders. Romain Bardet attacked as soon as the descent began, trying to take time over his main rival in the best young rider classification, Thibaut Pinot. Vincenzo Nibali overshot a corner on the narrow and technical descent, but managed to keep the bike upright.

In the valley just before the start of the final climb, a group of four riders broke clear of the leading group of 14: Nicolas Roche, Pierre Rolland, Amael Moinard (BMC) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar). As the Pla d’Adet climb began the four leaders had 2:13 over the yellow jersey group.

Nicolas Roche attacked with 9.5km to the summit and was quickly marked by Visconti. A few hundred metres later it was Visconti’s turn to attack as the road ramped up to 10%, and only Roche was able to mark the move. With 8.6km to go, Visconti attacked again, this time getting clear on his own.

Romain Bardet had hit the final climb solo with a gap over the Nibali group and, more importantly, over Thibaut Pinot. But hard work on the front of the Nibali group by Pinot’s teammate Arnold Jeannesson saw Bardet’s advantage come down on the climb.

With 7.8km to go Rafal Majka, Joaquim Rodriguez and Ion Izagirre (Movistar) pulled clear of the chase group, being joined by Frank Schleck and a couple others. And then, 300m up the road, Majka attacked again, grabbing hold of a TV moto aerial to push himself on as Joaquim Rodriguez raised a hand in frustration behind.

Majka caught Roche, Moinard and Rolland with 6.8km still to climb while Visconti was still 33 seconds up the road. And then, a kilometre later, Majka attacked again, heading off in search of Visconti and the race lead.

In the Nibali group Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2r-La Mondiale) attacked and was marked by the maillot jaune, just as Romain Bardet’s tenacious escape came to an end. The pace at the front of the Nibali group saw Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) dropped, his second place overall looking under threat.

With 5km left to race, Nibali attacked and Peraud was the only one that could mark the move. The Sicilian attacked again a few hundred metres later and again it was Peraud who made the junction. As Nibali and Peraud pushed on together, they swept up the remnants of the breakaway group, including Joaquim Rodriguez.

Majka caught Visconti at the head of the race with 4.2km to the summit, the pair riding together for a few kilometres with a gap of 1:33 over Nibali and Peraud. And then, with 2.5km remaining, Majka made his final attack for the day, shelling Giovanni Visconti and climbing his way towards a second stage victory.

In the end Majka took the stage win 29 seconds clear of Visconti with Nibali finishing third at 46 seconds, having swept up all other riders on the road. Alejandro Valverde managed to catch back on to the Pinot and Bardet group in the closing kilometres (thanks to some help from a teammate) and even found the legs to outsprint them at the finish. The Spaniard thus holds on to his second place overall, 5:26 behind Vincenzo Nibali who once again extended his lead.

Thibaut Pinot still sits third overall, a further 34 seconds behind Valverde, and remains in the best young rider’s jersey, 1:34 ahead of Bardet. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) will again wear the green jersey as points classification leader while Rafal Majka has extended his lead in the KOM classification with 50 points on the stage-ending hors categorie climb today.

On stage 18 the riders face a final day in the Pyrenees, a 146km stage that features the HC climbs of the Col du Tourmalet and the stage-ending Hautacam.

Previous stage reports

– Stage 1: Marcel Kittel takes Tour opener as Cavendish and Gerrans crash
– Stage 2: Vincenzo Nibali wins in Sheffield and takes Tour lead overall
– Stage 3: Marcel Kittel doubles up in London, Nibali holds on to yellow
– Stage 4: Marcel Kittel claims his third stage as Vincenzo Nibali defends yellow
– Stage 5: Lars Boom wins on the cobbles of stage 5 as Chris Froome crashes out
– Stage 6: Andre Greipel sprints to victory on stage 6, Nibali holds steady in yellow
– Stage 7: Matteo Trentin wins in a photo finish, Nibali secures a sixth day in yellow
– Stage 8: Blel Kadri solos to stage 8 victory, Nibali holds lead after GC shakeup
– Stage 9: Tony Martin takes solo win as Tony Gallopin rides into yellow
– Stage 10: Nibali takes back yellow as Contador crashes out of the Tour de France
– Stage 11: Gallopin wins stage 11 of Le Tour after a perfectly timed late attack
– Stage 12: Kristoff sprints to his first Tour de France stage win into Saint-Etienne
– Stage 13: Nibali climbs to a third stage win and stamps his authority on Le Tour
– Stage 14: Rafal Majka claims to stage 14 win in his first Tour de France
– Stage 15: Kristoff wins again as Bauer and Elmiger fall agonisingly short
– Stage 16: Michael Rogers wins stage 16 after late attack off the Port de Bales

Stage results

Rnk Rider Team Time
MAJKA Rafał MAJKA Rafał Tinkoff - Saxo
Tinkoff - Saxo 03:35:23
VISCONTI Giovanni VISCONTI Giovanni Movistar Team
Movistar Team 0:29
NIBALI Vincenzo NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team
Astana Pro Team 0:46
Rnk Rider Team Time
NIBALI Vincenzo NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team
Astana Pro Team 76:41:28
VALVERDE Alejandro VALVERDE Alejandro Movistar Team
Movistar Team 5:26
PINOT Thibaut PINOT Thibaut 6:00
Rnk Rider Team Points
SAGAN Peter SAGAN Peter Cannondale
Cannondale 408
COQUARD Bryan COQUARD Bryan Team Europcar
Team Europcar 233
KRISTOFF Alexander KRISTOFF Alexander Team Katusha
Team Katusha 217
Rnk Rider Team Time
PINOT Thibaut PINOT Thibaut 76:47:28
BARDET Romain BARDET Romain AG2R La Mondiale
AG2R La Mondiale 1:34
KWIATKOWSKI Michał KWIATKOWSKI Michał Omega Pharma - Quick-Step
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 30:41
Rnk Rider Team Points
MAJKA Rafał MAJKA Rafał Tinkoff - Saxo
Tinkoff - Saxo 149
NIBALI Vincenzo NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team
Astana Pro Team 118
RODRÍGUEZ Joaquim RODRÍGUEZ Joaquim Team Katusha
Team Katusha 112
Rnk Team Time
AG2R La Mondiale
Belkin-Pro Cycling Team
Movistar Team

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