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Le Tour Stage 14: Majka Lifts Saxo Spirits

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Bryn Lennon

At one time publicly reluctant to ride the Tour de France as a last minute substitute for Roman Kreuziger, even claiming the decision showed his Saxo-Tinkoff team did not care about his health, Rafael Majka appears to be reconsidering his earlier statements after taking his first professional victory in Risoul. The young Polish rider who rode to 6th in this year's Giro d'Italia and second in its young rider competition joined a large and star-studded early breakaway with Joaquím Rodríguez, Geraint Thomas, and Mikel Nieve among the biggest climbing talents in the group. The group withered under the pressure of Thomas and Rodríguez on the Col d'Izoard and Majka attacked after the sinewy descent as the group began the climb to Risoul. He managed to hold off a chase by race leader Vincenzo Nibali and Jean Christophe Peraud in the final kilometers to win. Though his palmares are stocked after only three years as a professional, including two top ten finishes in the Giro and 4th at the Dauphiné this year, the victory was Majka's first of what will surely be many more.

Behind Majka, the general classification race intensified more. While Nibali seems to be impervious to bad days, the cast of who is on a good, poor, or even worse day behind the Italian seems to rotate every day. Today, it was Peraud who was on fire, the only rider capable of following Nibali's attack with 4 kilometers remaining. The race leader seemed to grow tired of the incessant attacking among the French riders in the group of overall contenders, all fighting for the lower spots on the podium, and rode convincingly clear of the group once again. Behind the duo of Nibali and Peraud, Romain Bardet, Thibault Pinot, Tejay van Garderen and Frank Schleck rode clear of the others, including Alejandro Valverde on a surprisingly bad day after looking quite strong yesterday. Behind even Valverde were Bauke Mollema and Jurgen Van den Broeck, who lost over two and four minutes on Nibali respectively.

One of the more standout performances of the day occurred not on the climbs but on the descent of the Izoard. Romain Bardet, sitting just in front of Pinot at the beginning of the day, charged down the descent with abandon, his AG2R teammates in the group driving the pace whenever possible to put pressure on the poorer descender of the duo. Pinot withdrew from last year's Tour after publicly faring very poorly on any sort of technical descent, but the young French rider on FDJ has worked intensively on his descending in the past year and it showed today as he held on gamely. Though he was visibly using more energy to remain in contact than his more skilled adversaries, Pinot's performance confirms his potential to challenge for the top step of podiums in grand tours in years to come.

Results:

1 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 5:08:27
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:24
3 Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:26
4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:00:50
5 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:54
7 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 0:01:01
8 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:01:07
9 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura 0:01:20
10 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:24

General Classification:

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 61:52:54
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:37
3 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:50
4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:05:06
5 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:05:49
6 Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:08
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:08:33
8 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura 0:09:32
9 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:10:01
10 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:10:48