Rafal Majka climbs to stage 14 victory in his first Tour de France

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Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) has become just the second Polish rider to win a stage of the Tour de France, taking victory on the summit finish to Risoul on stage 14 of his first Tour de France. Majka had been part of the stage-long breakaway before he attacked from the disintegrating group on the final climb of the day.
Overall leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished second on the stage, 24 seconds behind Majka, putting more time into all of his GC rivals.

The second and final day in the Alps featured an unclassified climb just kilometres from the start with many riders put in difficulty straight away. A group of 40 riders split off from the peloton, with the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) all present.

Nibali and his Astana teammates dropped back to the peloton with bunch of other riders, leaving a group of 17 riders up front to form the day’s main breakaway: Geraint Thomas (Sky), Mikel Nieve (Sky), Steven Kruikswijk (Belkin), Cyril Gautier (Cannondale), Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo), Peter Sagan, Amael Moinard (BMC), Alessandro de Marchi (Cannondale), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), Joaquim Rodriguez, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Albert Timmer (Giant-Shimano).

The day’s intermediate sprint came in La Paute, 40km into the 177km stage, and on the approach to the sprint the 17 leaders had a gap of 3:21 over the peloton. Peter Sagan, who had got himself in the move to take more points in the green jersey competition, crossed the line uncontested, further extending his virtually unassailable lead.

With 113km still to race the leaders were on the lower slopes of the day’s first climb, the 34km Col du Lauteret. The gap was on its way to beyond four minutes with Astana holding court on the front of the peloton.

As the climb wore on, the gap pushed out to beyond five minutes with little action taking place in either the break or the peloton. Joaquim Rodriguez, wearing the polka dots as KOM classification leader despite losing the lead to Nibali on stage 13, crested the first-category climb at the head of the breakaway as the leaders began the long descent towards Briancon and the start of the second climb.

On the descent NetApp-Endura came to the front in an attempt to set up the finale for leader Leopold Konig. Down in Briancon, at the base of the Col d’Izoard ascent, the gap from the leaders to the peloton was down to 2:35.

Peter Sagan was dropped from the lead group as soon as the climb began, as too was Albert Timmer. And despite the efforts of NetApp-Endura as the peloton hit the start of the climb, the gap actually started to grow, heading back outside three minutes.

Throughout the 19km climb — the second of six hors categorie climbs in this year’s race — riders were constantly being shelled from both the lead group and the peloton. Over the top of the climb the lead group was down to 11 riders as Rodriguez attacked to try to secure more points in the KOM classification. Rafal Majka was in contention for the points as well but appeared to let Rodriguez takes the points (and the 5,000 euros) — the Polish rider would have bigger things to celebrate later on.

The peloton crested the climb 2:55 after the leaders but on the 30km descent from the summit, that gap started to come right down. It was inside two minutes with 38km left to race as the leader of the best young rider classification, Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) tried to get clear on the descent with a teammate. The move saw the peloton fracture with a group of just five coming together, including overall leader Vincenzo Nibali.

The peloton reformed with 23.2km remaining as the five riders were caught, at which point the gap to the leaders was 1:47 and shrinking fast. It was down to 1:30 with 20km to the finish and at the bottom of the final climb, 12.6km from the end, it was just one minute.

Ag2r-La Mondiale led the charge in the peloton with three riders supporting their man Romain Bardet. Meanwhile Richie Porte (Sky) was clearly having another bad day, unhitching from the peloton as soon as the climb began. He would lose another 4:52 on Nibali by the end of the stage.

The furious pace of Ag2r-La Mondiale saw a significant thinning down of the peloton while up ahead, with 11.3km to go, Alessandro De Marchi attacked the remnants of the breakaway. He was joined by Jose Serpa while almost all of the remaining breakaway riders faded back to the peloton. Rafal Majka, however, was still going strong, powering his way towards the front of the race.

Just inside 10km to go De Marchi tried to attack Serpa but couldn’t get away. He had a little more success when he tried again 200m later, moving clear at the head of the race.

De Marchi was joined by Majka with 9km to go while Rodriguez tried to come across from the breakaway as well. Behind them only about 20 riders remained in the peloton, including Vincenzo Nibali, the climb having forced a significant thinning-out of the bunch.

With 8.4km still to climb Rafal Majka attacked, leaving Alessandro De Marchi behind. At this stage he had 36 seconds over the yellow jersey group. Roughly 8km from the summit Rodriguez and De Marchi joined forces while the peloton continued to pick up the remnants of the breakaway.

With 5km left to race Majka had more than a minute on the 18-strong yellow jersey group with Rodriguez and De Marchi somewhere in between. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) attacked from the Nibali group a short time later with Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) joining him, but they were soon caught by the bunch.

With 4km to go Majka had 1:10 — his lead growing — and it looked as if the Polish rider was going to hold on. And then with 3.6km to the summit, the ever-patient Vincenzo Nibali finally made his move.

He burst clear of his companions with only Jean-Christophe Peraud able to mark him. The pair flew past Alessandro De Marchi and Joaquim Rodriguez, riding off in search of Rafal Majka.

With 3km to go Alejandro Valverde attacked, being joined by Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) and a handful of others. And when van Garderen became the next to attack a short time later, just four riders remained in the group: Van Garderen, Pinot, Romain Bardet and Frank Schleck (Trek).

Majka had 35 seconds up his sleeve with 1.9km left to race and the gap didn’t appear to be coming down. With 1.1km to go his advantage was still at 30 seconds and it was clear that the man who placed sixth in this year’s Giro d’Italia (and who didn’t want to race this year’s Tour) was going to take his first stage win in a Grand Tour.

He pushed himself all the way to the finish, crossing the line 24 seconds clear of Nibali in second, and a further two seconds ahead of Peraud in third.

While Nibali was able to take time off both Valverde (second overall) and Bardet (third overall), the top three in the general classification remains unchanged after stage 14. Nibali’s lead is now 4:37 over Valverde though and barring a significant crash (which, as we’ve seen so far this Tour, should never be discounted) the Sicilian will win this year’s Tour de France.

In the points classification Peter Sagan once again wears green into stage 15 with 361 points. His nearest rival, Bryan Coquard (Europcar), has just 191 points. Joaquim Rodriguez has taken back the lead in the KOM classification but only just — he now sits equal on points with stage winner Rafal Majka, who also finished second on yesterday’s mountain-top finish to Chamrousse. Romain Bardet, meanwhile, still leads the best young rider classification by just 16 seconds over compatriot Thibaut Pinot.

Stage 15 of this year’s Tour de France is the final day before the second rest day. It’s a day for the sprinters with no classified climbs on its 222km from Tallard to Nimes.

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 results

Rnk Rider Team Time
MAJKA Rafał MAJKA Rafał Tinkoff - Saxo
Tinkoff - Saxo 05:08:27
NIBALI Vincenzo NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team
Astana Pro Team 0:24
PERAUD Jean-Christophe PERAUD Jean-Christophe AG2R La Mondiale
AG2R La Mondiale 0:26
Rnk Rider Team Time
NIBALI Vincenzo NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team
Astana Pro Team 61:52:54
VALVERDE Alejandro VALVERDE Alejandro Movistar Team
Movistar Team 4:37
BARDET Romain BARDET Romain AG2R La Mondiale
AG2R La Mondiale 4:50
Rnk Rider Team Points
SAGAN Peter SAGAN Peter Cannondale
Cannondale 361
COQUARD Bryan COQUARD Bryan Team Europcar
Team Europcar 191
KRISTOFF Alexander KRISTOFF Alexander Team Katusha
Team Katusha 172
Rnk Rider Team Time
BARDET Romain BARDET Romain AG2R La Mondiale
AG2R La Mondiale 61:57:44
PINOT Thibaut PINOT Thibaut FDJ.fr
FDJ.fr 0:16
KWIATKOWSKI Michał KWIATKOWSKI Michał Omega Pharma - Quick-Step
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 14:34
Rnk Rider Team Points
RODRÍGUEZ Joaquim RODRÍGUEZ Joaquim Team Katusha
Team Katusha 88
MAJKA Rafał MAJKA Rafał Tinkoff - Saxo
Tinkoff - Saxo 88
NIBALI Vincenzo NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team
Astana Pro Team 86
Rnk Team Time
AG2R La Mondiale
Belkin-Pro Cycling Team
Team Sky

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