Tour de France: Rafal Majka wins stage 17 solo as Vincenzo Nibali extends overall lead
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 23/07/14 6:47pm
Breakaway rider Rafal Majka climbed to his second solo victory of this year’s Tour de France as Vincenzo Nibali strengthened his grip on the yellow jersey on stage 17.
Majka formed part of the day’s initial 22-man breakaway but later shed all of his fellow escapees with a trio of attacks on the final climb to the summit finish at Pla d'Adet and hung on to beat Giovanni Visconti into second place by 29 seconds.
Nibali was the third man over the line, 46 seconds back, after dropping all but one of his rivals for overall victory with a pair of attacks with around 5km remaining.
Alejandro Valverde, who is second overall, followed 49 seconds later in tenth place, and now sees his deficit to Nibali rise from 4min 37sec to 5min 26sec with only four stages remaining.
Thibaut Pinot narrowly hung on to third overall, six minutes down, after being left behind by Jean-Christophe Peraud, who was the only man who could follow Nibali and is now just eight seconds adrift of Pinot in the standings in fourth.
Majka, who also won stage 14 last weekend and has now extended his lead in the mountains classification over Joaquim Rodriguez to 31 points, said: “I am really happy. I went in the breakaway to win the stage. Bjarne [Riis, his Tinkoff-Saxo team manager] told me if we win the stage, we win the [polka dot] jersey. I won the stage and I have the jersey.”
Stage 17, the first of back-to-back summit finishes in the Pyrenees, was the shortest day of the race, at 124.5km, but contained three category-one climbs and then an hors-categorie ascent to the summit finish.
Despite an opening hour raced at a frantic average speed of 50kmh, a large breakaway packed with climbing talent managed to escape, but it was not until they started up the first climb, the Col du Portillon, that their advantage was allowed to grow beyond a minute.
Sixteen of the initial 22 breakaway riders were still in the lead heading on to the final climb, but they were reduced to just four when Pierre Rolland (Europcar) attacked and only Visconti (Movistar), Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Amael Moinard (BMC) could follow.
Visconti subsequently attacked that group to take a solo lead, but then the peerless Majka stamped his authority on the stage. His first attack saw him leave the main group of escapees behind 8km out and catch up to the Rolland group, which he then rode away from with his second burst 5km from home. After joining up with a tiring Visconti, he made light work of dispatching the Italian with a final, and decisive, attack with 2.4km to go.
Back down the road, Valverde (Movistar) was dropped by the yellow jersey group when Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) attacked about 6.5km out, and Pinot (FDJ), Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) then followed him out the back when Nibali (Astana) launched two quick-fire bursts about 1.5km later.
Peraud managed to stay with Nibali all the way to the finish but was just unable to replace Pinot in third overall, while Valverde rallied well to tighten his grip on second.
Stage 17 result
1 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo, 3:35:23
2 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar, +0:29
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +0:46
4 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Agr-La Mondiale, same time
5 Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale, +0:49
6 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar, +0:52
7 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing, +1:12
8 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin, st
9 Nicolas Roche (Ire) Tinkoff-Saxo, +1:25
10 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +1:35
1 Vincenzo Niabli (Ita) Astana, 76:41:28
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +5:26
3 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, +6:00
4 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +6:08
5 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +7:34
6 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC, +10:19
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin, +11:59
8 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin, +12:16
9 Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura, +12:40
10 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar, +13:15