Young Pole Rafal Majka made up for the disappointment of finishing second on Friday by winning Saturday’s 14th stage of the Tour de France. Majka joined a group of 17 escapees early on in the 177km Alpine stage from Grenoble to Risoul and was able to hold on all the way to the finish. Race leader Vincenzo Nibali came home in second to extend his overall advantage in the yellow jersey competition while 37 year-old Frenchman Jean-Christophe Peraud took third on the stage. But behind that there was a thrilling battle for the last two podium spots as Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde cracked. He dropped to 4min 37sec behind Nibali but more importantly, young Frenchman Romain Bardet, who was fifth on the stage, closed to within 13sec of second place with another home rider Thibaut Pinot, fourth on the stage and overall, just a further 16sec back.
American Tejay Van Garderen also gained time on Valverde and is 1:12 behind the Spaniard while Peraud in sixth advanced to 1:30 behind the Spaniard in what is developing into a thrilling battle for the podium. But up front Majka was a deserved winner after being so cruelly denied by Nibali on Friday’s first Alpine stage. He responded to an attack on the final first category climb to Risoul by Italian Alessandro De Marchi to set out alone for the victory. The rest of the breakaway group was swallowed up by a charging peloton, led by Bardet and Peraud’s Ag2r team that was looking to move it’s two lead riders up the standings. But no one could catch Majko who gave his Tinkoff-Saxo team something to cheer about after their leader Alberto Contador crashed out on Monday’s 10th stage.
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 Knig (CZE/APP) 1:20.
10. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 1:24.
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 Knig (CZE/APP) 9:32.
9. Laurens ten Dam (NED/BKN) 10:01.
10. Pierre Rolland (FRA/EUC) 10:48.