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. See stage 17 results here.
STAGE 17 PHOTOS
It was another big day in the Pyrenees for the Tour de France peloton. Stage 17 included three category 1 climbs, then finished with the long grind up the hors categorie Pla d'Adet ascent. Photo by Graham Watson
Heat was also a major factor. Here Orica rider Luke Durbridge does his best to cool off. Photo by Graham Watson
Like the day before a large breakaway escaped early. But on the last climb the numbers whittled until just two remained Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar). Photo by Graham Watson
Majka and Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) are in a tight battle for King of the Mountains supremacy. On Wednesday, the Polish Tinkoff-Saxo rider was the stronger man. Photo by Graham Watson
Svein Tuft, the rare Canadian in the Tour de France, gets a push from the team mechanic after a puncture repair. Photo by Graham Watson
The marquee group included the usual suspects (left to right) Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale) and his teammate Jean-Christophe Péraud. Photo by Graham Watson
After Nibali attacked, van Garderen, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) and Bardet did their best to limit further losses, knowing the latter podium placings are the best they can hope for. Photo by Graham Watson
Alejandro Valverde (center) was momentarily dropped by his fellow second-place contenders. But with ample support from his Movistar team, the Spaniard clawed back to van Garderen, Pinot, and Bardet, then went on to take a handful of seconds for himself. Photo by Graham Watson
Rafal Majka earned his second stage win of this year's Tour, and now has a solid hold on the polka dot King of the Mountains jersey. Photo by Graham Watson
Pinot and van Garderen slipped across the line well back of Nibali, who continues to take time at will. Afterwards van Garderen wonder why the Italian race leader even bothers to keep attacking when it's clear the race is his to lose. Photo by Graham Watson
STAGE 17 GALLERY