Tour de France: Chris Froome retains lead as Rafal Majka wins
Team Sky rider finishes alongside his rivals on stage 11
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 16/07/15 6:29am
Chris Froome retained his lead of the Tour de France after the race favourites finished alongside each other on a mountainous 11th stage won by breakaway rider Rafal Majka.
Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) formed part of the day’s eight-man escape group but attacked a huge 48km out from the finish while climbing the iconic Col du Tourmalet and hung on to beat runner-up Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) by one minute.
Froome (Team Sky) finished 5min 21sec later in ninth place alongside Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing).
It means he remains 2min 52sec ahead of second-placed Van Garderen and 3min 9sec in front of third-placed Quintana in the general classification.
Contador stays 4min 4sec down in sixth, one place and one second adrift of Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), but Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) suffered another difficult day and dropped out of the top 10 overall after losing another 50 seconds to his rivals.
Majka said: "I didn't choose this stage but I knew it was really hard. It went over the Tourmalet, so it is no easy stage. Today I received help from my team-mates to go in the breakaway and I am so happy. This victory is for my team-mates, and for Ivan Basso, and also Daniele Bennati, who crashed today, and also my family."
The stage took the riders on a 188km route containing six climbs from Pau to Cauterets and although the first three ascents were relatively small, the fourth and fifth took the riders over the category-one Col d’Aspin and then the hors-categorie Tourmalet.
It took almost two hours for a seven-man breakaway to form, but it later became eight when Martin impressively bridged a gap of several minutes between the peloton and leaders on the Aspin.
The Irishman looked in superb form, but he had no answer when Majka attacked halfway up the 17.1km-long Tourmalet. It looked an ambitious move at first, but he was more than a minute clear at the summit and although Martin launched a fierce pursuit on the final climb to Cauterets, Majka’s third career Tour stage win never looked in doubt.
Back down the road, Astana moved to the front of the peloton on the Tourmalet and blew it to pieces with an injection of pace. They seemed to be trying to set Nibali up for an attack close to the summit so that he could pull clear on the 30km descent down the other side, but instead they burned themselves and Team Sky soon had to take back over.
The British squad were clearly looking to defend and Richie Porte slowed the pace down on the front of the vastly reduced main group, allowing Majka to extend his lead over them from 4min 30sec to almost six minutes.
Team Sky then set a strong tempo on the descent off the Tourmalet and shallow final climb as they successfully deterred attacks and allowed Froome a relatively straightforward day.
The Tour continues on Thursday with a third 195km 12th stage starting in Lannemezan and ending with a summit finish at Plateau de Beille. Follow it with our live blog from 1pm BST and find out more about the route in our race guide.
Stage 11 result
1 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo, 5:02:01
2 Dan Martin (Irl) Cannondale-Garmin, +1:00
3 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18, +1:23
4 Serge Pauwels (Bel) MTN-Qhubeka, +2:08
5 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar, +3:34
6 Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, same time
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing, +5:11
8 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, +5:19
9 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +5:21
10 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 41:03:31
2 Tejay van Garderen (US) BMC Racing, +2:52
3 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +3:09
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +3:59
5 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +4:03
6 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, +4:04
7 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal, +4:33
8 Robert Gesink (Net) LottoNL-Jumbo, +4:35
9 Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin, +6:44
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing, +7:05