Rafal Majka wins stage seveteen of the 2014 Tour de France Photo by Graham Watson
Contador who? Team Tinkoff-Saxo may have lost its GC leader, but it continues to impress at the Tour de France. On Wednesday, Rafal Majka snagged his second stage win of this year’s Tour a day after teammate Michael Rogers got one of his own.
Majka slotted himself inside a large early breakaway, then came over the top of Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) near the end of stage 17’s 125km ride from Saint-Gaudens to the top of the hors categorie Pla d’Adet climb. That earned Majka max points in the King of the Mountains competition, and will go a long way to keeping the Polish rider in the polka-dot jersey all the way to Paris.
Visconti held on for second, at 0:29, with overall race leader Vincenzo Nibali in third to further consolidate his iron clad grip on the yellow jersey. Nibali now leads second placed Alejandro Valverde by a whopping 5:26, with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) third, at 6 minutes. Pinot continues to lead the white jersey standings for the best young rider, with a 1:34 advantage over Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale).
Valverde (Movistar) had a trying day, at one point getting dropped out of the GC group going up the 10.2km Pla d’Adet climb. But the Spaniard stayed calm, calling in help from a trio of teammates, who pulled their leader back to the second chase group, which included Pinot, Bardet, and American Tejay van Garderen (BMC).
That trio had been dropped by Nibali, who unhitched all the would-be podium contenders save Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2R-La Mondiale). By managing to hold Nibali’s wheel, Peraud maintained his fourth place position, and is now just 8 seconds behind Pinot in the battle for third place overall.
Meanwhile, van Garderen appeared far stronger than the previous day, hanging onto the No. 2 GC group to finish 13th. The BMC rider is sixth overall at 10:19, and still has a slim chance of getting back in the final podium contest with the stage 20 time trial still to come.
“Yesterday was a pity, it was an off day,” said van Garderen. “You can’t change that. You can only look ahead. But anything is possible. If you would have asked me a couple days ago I would have said, it is really possible. Now, yes it is possible. But it will be hard. I tried doing a little attack today but [Pinot and Bardet] are looking really strong. Obviously, if one of them has a bad day, I need to take advantage of it.”
He might get that chance Thursday. Stage 18 is the final day in the Pyrenees, a 145.5km ride from Pau to Hautacam. This time the bunch faces the hors categorie Col du Tourmalet (17.1km, 7.3% average gradient) and then a summit finish atop hors categorie Hautacam (13.6km, 7.8%).
STAGE 17 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 17
Yellow Jersey: Vincenzo Nibali (ITA), Astana Pro Team
Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (SVK), Cannondale
Polka Dot Jersey: Rafal Majka (POL), Tinkoff-Saxo
White Jersey: Thibaut Pinot (FRA), FDJ.fr