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Majka Escapes to Stage Glory at Risoul

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July 19, 2014 (AFP) — Rafal Majka made up for the disappointment of finishing second on Friday by winning Saturday’s 14th stage of the Tour de France as Vincenzo Nibali continued to distance his rivals.

peloton/AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

Poland’s Majka broke away from an 11-strong escape group on the final first category climb to Risoul and managed to hold off a charging Nibali to win the 177km Alpine stage from Grenoble.

It was a welcome relief for Majka having been reeled in and passed by Nibali on Friday’s first stage in the Alps, but also for his Tinkoff-Saxo team after losing leader Alberto Contador to injury.

“This morning I spoke with my teammates because yesterday I was second and I spoke also with the team and (manager) Bjarne (Riise) and I said if I get in the breakaway I will win the stage,” said the 24-year-old Majka.

 “At the bottom of the final climb we had an advantage of 1min 10sec over the peloton and I attacked and I dropped everyone, (Joaquim) Rodriguez and the Cannondale rider (Alessandro De Marchi) and I tried to win alone. When the gap was 35sec with 2km left to the finish I kept my motivation and fought for the stage win.”

Majka held on to win by 24sec to Nibali with 37-year-old Frenchman Jean-Christophe Peraud coming over the line just two seconds later. Nibali had attacked his rivals in the overall standings inside the final 4km and as he rode away the true battle for the podium places really started to heat up.

Dedicates Win to Contador

“This win is for my teammates and for Alberto, because I know how hard it has been for us all. But today we showed that we weren’t going to give up. I think that we’ve been very active during the last four stages and it all paid off today,” said Majka after crossing the finish line on top of the HC climb to Risoul.

“I like the Alps and especially when there are several climbs in the same stage. The long hard stages suits me well and I showed that I had enough power left in the tank to keep the GC guys behind me. I’ve been on training camp here at Risoul so I know the climb and how to adjust to the incline,” Majka said.

“I came to help Alberto and now suddenly I’ve won the first Tour de France stage of my life. It’s really big but also totally unexpected. My sport directors told me to take it slow during the first week to stay fresh for the mountains and today it proved to be a good idea,” Majka said.

The Race Behind

Second placed Alejandro Valverde started to struggle around 2km from home, allowing young French pair Thibaut Pinto and Romain Bardet, as well as American Tejay Van Garderen, to gain time as they came in fifth through seventh. Valverde rolled over the line in 10th and lost 30sec to Van Garderen and 34sec to the two Frenchmen.

The Spanish veteran drifted out to 4:37 behind Nibali but the next four riders behind him — Bardet, Pinot, Van Garderen and Peraud — are all within 1:30.

“Nibali is the strongest but there’s nothing in it between the rest of us,” said Valverde.

After struggling with Friday’s heat, as temperatures reached around 35 degrees Celsius, Peraud said he’d got his strength back on Saturday.

“I rediscovered the feelings I had in the Vosges. It wasn’t so hot and suffocating today and when there’s air, I can breath,” said the AG2R teammate of Bardet.

“With Romain we were supposed to attack on the final climb but Nibali beat us to it, so I went with him.”

That was a smart move as it allowed him to gain time on the four riders directly above him.

Nibali had won the three previous uphill finishes in this race and when he started to close in on Majka, it looked like he might maintain a 100 percent record on the summits.

But he said that wasn’t his aim.

“When I attacked I tried to gain time, I saw that with a 50-second lead it would be difficult to catch Majka for the victory,” said the 29-year-old Italian.

“I tried to manage the situation and just put some time into Valverde and the other rivals.I felt good so I could try something and things went well.”

The day had begun with a 17-man breakaway quite early on which had been reduced to 10 by the top of the second of three categorized climbs, the hors category Col d’Izoard — the highest point in this year’s race at 2,360m.

They had a gap to the peloton of around 3min then but the bunch closed in to just over a minute behind by the start of the final ascent to Risoul. Another breakaway companion had got back on by then but immediately the attacks started, firstly from De Marchi and Rodriguez, but then Majka swept past everyone.

Unlike the previous day’s stage when he and Leopold Konig were caught by Nibali, this time the Pole had the strength to go all the way to the end.

Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Philippe Mauduit on the stage strategy:

“The plan was to have Rafal and Nico in the break and they managed excellently. Throughout the day, Nico was working very hard to push on and keep up the pace in the group so Rafal would have a better chance of making it all the way to the finish line. And Rafal executed the tactics brilliantly and he was still very strong on the final meters after a very long day in the front group and it was a magnificent piece of teamwork that provided him with the extra power. A big day for Rafal and a big day for the entire team.”

****

***

   1. Rafal Majka (POL/TIN) 5hr 08min 27sec
   2. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/AST) at 0:24.
   3. Jean Christophe Peraud (FRA/ALM) 0:26.
   4. Thibaut Pinot (FRA/FDJ) 0:50.
   5. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 0:50.
   6. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) 0:54.
   7. Frank Schleck (LUX/TRE) 1:01.
   8. Laurens ten Dam (NED/BKN) 1:07.
   9. Leopold König (CZE/APP) 1:20.
   10. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 1:24.
   11. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/TRE) 1:24.
   12. Pierre Rolland (FRA/EUC) 1:24.
   13. Jon Izagirre (ESP/MOV) 2:18.
   14. Michael Rogers (AUS/TIN) 2:34.
   15. John Gadret (FRA/MOV) 2:37.
   16. Bauke Mollema (NED/BKN) 2:40.
   17. Ben Gastauer (LUX/ALM) 2:44.
   18. Arnold Jeannesson (FRA/FDJ) 3:09.
   19. Yury Trofimov (RUS/KAT) 3:09.
   20. Nicolas Edet (FRA/COF) 3:20.
   21. Simon Yates (ENG/ORI) 3:25.
   22. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/BKN) 3:31.
   23. Brice Feillu (FRA/BSE) 3:57.
   24. Rui Costa (POR/LAM) 4:46.
   25. Tony Gallopin (FRA/LTB) 4:59.
   26. Jurgen Van den Broeck (BEL/LTB) 4:59.
   27. Richie Porte (AUS/SKY) 5:16.
   28. Marcel Wyss (SUI/IAM) 6:17.
   29. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 6:37.
   30. Mikel Nieve (ESP/SKY) 6:37.

Overall Standings: 

1. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/AST) 61h52min 54sec
   2. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) at 4:37.
   3. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 4:50.
   4. Thibaut Pinot (FRA/FDJ) 5:06.
   5. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) 5:49.
   6. Jean Christophe Peraud (FRA/ALM) 6:08.
   7. Bauke Mollema (NED/BKN) 8:33.
   8. Leopold König (CZE/APP) 9:32.
   9. Laurens ten Dam (NED/BKN) 10:01.
   10. Pierre Rolland (FRA/EUC) 10:48.
   11. Jurgen Van den Broeck (BEL/LTB) 11:02.
   12. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/TRE) 11:10.
   13. Rui Costa (POR/LAM) 12:57.
   14. Frank Schleck (LUX/TRE) 14:37.
   15. Richie Porte (AUS/SKY) 16:03.
   16. Yury Trofimov (RUS/KAT) 19:12.
   17. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL/OPQ) 19:24.
   18. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 20:18.
   19. Brice Feillu (FRA/BSE) 21:00.
   20. Mikel Nieve (ESP/SKY) 21:04.
   21. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/BKN) 22:30.
   22. Chris Horner (USA/LAM) 23:59.
   23. John Gadret (FRA/MOV) 32:55.
   24. Tanel Kangert (EST/AST) 39:12.
   25. Ben Gastauer (LUX/ALM) 41:28.
   26. Peter Velits (SVK/BMC) 45:33.
   27. Jakob Diemer Fuglsang (DEN/AST) 48:00.
   28. Jan Bakelants (BEL/OPQ) 49:03.
   29. Cyril Gautier (FRA/EUC) 50:17.
   30. Tom Dumoulin (NED/GIA) 52:08.