Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) won his second stage of the 2014 Tour de France, and the third for Tinkoff-Saxo in five days.
Majka was the victor from a large breakaway group which attacked in the early kilometres of the stage. Despite initially failing to follow fellow break companion Giovanni Visconti’s (Movistar) attack, Majka paced his way back up to the Italian and soon passed him.
His gap over Visconti was big enough in the end for the Pole to direct a confident wink to the television camera with a kilometre to go.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) retains the yellow jersey and gained yet more time over all his rivals - apart from Jean Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) – with an attack on the final climb. Peraud was the only rider able to follow him up the climb, and the pair managed to catch and pass all of the riders from the break apart from Majka and Visconti, to finish third and fourth respectively.
For a while it looked as though Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was going to lose time as he was dropped on the lower slopes of the final climb, but thanks to some help from teammates Jesus Herrada and Jon Izagirre – who had both dropped back from the original break – he managed to catch back up to Romain Bardet (Ag2r), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) in the final kilometre.
Ag2r had put Pinot under pressure with Bardet attacking on the descent, forcing the white jersey to use up his teammate Arnold Jeannesson, and Peraud was able to gain nearly a minute over Pinot to put his podium place under pressure.
The day got off to a remarkably fast start, with the riders averaging over 50kmph in the first hour of racing as Katusha attempted to reel in a larger group of stage win-hunters. As the riders hit the first climb, another large group of riders – including Katusha’s Rodriguez and polka-dot jersey rival Majka - bridged the gap to the lead group.
A battle between Rodriguez and Majka ensued over the day’s four summits, and although the Spaniard was able to beat Majka in a sprint for the first three, his stage win atop the Pla d’Adet was enough to enhance his lead in the mountains classification.
Sky’s Vasil Kiryienka made a brave move early on as he attacked the rest of the break on his own. He opened up a big gap early on, and was the first rider to summit the second climb, but was slowly but surely reeled in as the chasing group worked well together.
Nicholas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) were other riders to chance their luck from the break later in the day’s racing, but ultimately Majka proved to be the strongest rider from the day’s break.
Tour de France 2014, stage 17: Saint-Gaudens to Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet, 124.5km
1. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo
2. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar at 29 secs
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 46 secs
4. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r at 46 secs
5. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale at 49 secs
6. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar at 52 secs
7. Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing at 1-12
8. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin at 1-12
9. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Tinkoff-Saxo at 1-25
10. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 1-35
57. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at 14-17
Overall classification after stage 17
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 5-26
3. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 6-00
4. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r at 6-08
5. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r at 7-34
6. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team at 10-19
7. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin at 11-59
8. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin at 12-16
9. Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura at 12-40
10. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar at 13-15
22. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at 37-25
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Stephen Puddicombe is a freelance journalist for Cycling Weekly, who regularly contributes to our World Tour racing coverage with race reports, news stories, interviews and features. Outside of cycling, he also enjoys writing about film and TV - but you won't find much of that content embedded into his CW articles.