Livin' the Dream

Livin' the Dream

About Me

I am a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, majoring in journalism. My passion is cycling. I am a category 4 bike racer and my absolute dream would be to turn pro one day. My more realistic goal is to become a journalist for the sport of cycling and eventually move on to become a broadcaster for the sport.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Redemption Continues: Majka Wins Stage fro Tinkoff-Saxo

            Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) won the 17th stage of the 101st edition on the Tour de France atop the famed Pla d’Adet. He survived out of an early morning breakaway that saw the riders cover 50.2km in the first hour of racing. Vincenzo Nibali extended his lead in the general classification to over five minutes with a late attack on the finishing climb

            This stage win is Majka’s second and third for the Tinkoff-Saxo team at this year’s Tour de France. These wins are a great consolation all coming after their leader Alberto Contador crashed out on stage 17. With the win Majka consolidated his lead in the King of the Mountains Polka Dot jersey competition and looks destined to be wearing that jersey in Paris.

Pros Will Be Pros

            Yesterday was the longest day of the Tour, so I guess it made sense to have the shortest day of the Tour today. Today’s stage travelled from Saint-Gaudens to Saint Lary, which sits atop the Hors Category climb of Pla d’Adet and was very short at only 124.5km. The riders would tackle three category 1 climbs before Pl d’Adet, with all of the climbs coming in the last 75km of the stage.

            The sun shone brightly and the temperature was a comfortable 80 degrees as the riders left Saint-Gaudens. An early breakaway of eight riders escaped at the 2km mark and included Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff), Blel Kadri (AG2R), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin), Yukiya Arashiro and Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Jens Voigt (Trek), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Martin Elmiger (IAM). The problem was Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez was not in the break. Rodriguez was in a heated battle with Majka for the Polka Dot jersey and with 80 KOM points available today he needed to be in the breakaway.

            Rodriguez sent his lieutenants to the front of the peloton and for the first 50km of the stage until the base of the Col du Portillon (8.3km, 7.1%) they chased like mad. The peloton was single file as the breakaway held its own against the insane pace of the peloton. At the base of the Portillon the gap was 38” and Rodriguez attacked out of the peloton attempting to bridge to the leaders. Chaos ensued as many riders attempted to follow Rodriguez. The riders flew up the climb trying to create a solid lead group. Astana was also controlling the peloton trying to make sure no one threatening to the general classification snuck away in the confusion.
            Rodriguez took maximum points atop the Col du Portillon and became the virtual leader in the King of the Mountains Competition over Majka. On the descent riders joined together and at the bottom a solid group of 22 riders had 1’30” over the peloton. Those riders were Pierre Rolland, Cyril Gautier and Yukio Arashiro (Europcar), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lott-Belisol), Frank Schleck (Trek), Peter Velits and Amaël Moinard (BMC), Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Jon Izagirre, Jesus Herrada and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), David Lopez Garcia and Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), Biel Kadri (AG2R-La Mondiale), Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), Bauke Mollema (Belkin), Rafal Majka and Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida), and Alessandro de Marchi (Cannondale). Schleck, Van Den Broeck, and Mollema were high placed on the general classification, but had lost enough time that they posed no threat to Nibali’s yellow jersey. Notablly was that Movistar had placed three riders in the lead group to be there in case Valverde needed to be paced on the final climb.

A Bid For Victory Falls Short

            As the leaders hit the base of the Col du Peyresourde (13.2km, 7%) with a slim 55km remaining, Kiryienka attacked out of the lead group and no one followed him. As the long climb of the Peyresourde worn on Kiryienka continued to extend his lead over the 21 rider chase group while the peloton continued to fall further behind. Near the top of the climb Jesus Herrada and Nicolas Roche attacked out of the chase group and again there was no response from the others. At the top of the climb Kiryienka held 1’15” over Roche and Herrada, 1’50” over the huge chase group and 5’30” over the peloton.

            Kiryienka continued to soldier on alone as the next climb of the day, Col de Val Louron-Azet (7.4km, 8.3%) began with just under 30km to the finish. Of those 30km though, 17.6 of them were uphill. On the Val Louron Kiryienka’s armor began to show cracks. His shoulders began to sway and his face was a picture of under exhaustion. Behind him the chase group was finally getting organized and had swept up Herrada and Roche and were closing in on Kiryienka. The peloton hit the base of the climb lead by FDJ, the team of 3rd overall Thibaut Pinot. FDJ set a brutal tempo and went about absolutely shattering the peloton. Soon riders were all over the mountain as the 21-rider chase group also began to split apart.

            Kiryienka was caught inside the final km to the summit of the Val Louron as the chase group was down to 14 riders. After beginning the climb with over a five-minute advantage, the peloton went over the top just 2’40” behind the leaders and had been reduced to just 10 men. All of the GC men were there except Leopold Konig (Netapp). Konig would go on to lose over 4’ on the day.

On the Move

            Thibaut Pinot has been known to be a terrible descender, but after working very hard in the offseason, this year has not been that bad for him. Pinot stole the Best Young Rider White Jersey from Romain Bardet yesterday and Bardet was determined to get it back. Bardet attacked on the descent of the Val Louron and pulled out a maximum advantage of almost 40”. There were scary moments for the yellow jersey Vincenzo Nibali as he got a corner wrong heading through a mountainside town and nearly crashed. He had to unclip one foot and nearly come to a complete stop in order to make the corner. Nibali is a very good descender and caught back up to the group rather easily.

             Entering the final climb of Pla d’Adet (10.2km, 8.3%) four riders jumped clear of the large lead group. Those riders were Visconti, Moinard, Roche, and Rolland. Soon Visconti jumped clear and Roche slowly clawed his was up to Visconti’s rear wheel. As the GC men hit the climb, Bardet had a 30” advantage over the yellow jersey group who was now being paced by Arnold Jeannesson the teammate of Pinot.

Two Races

            Two races developed on the climb to Pla d’Adet. One for the stage win and one for the overall classification. With 9km still to go Visconti had left Roche behind for good, but Majka was storming up the mountain behind. Majka was slowly passing rider after rider making his way up to Visconti. The lead group had blown to shreds on the climb and Majka had been unable to follow the initial acceleration, but now he was in the zone. As Majka closed in on Visconti, things were heating up in the yellow jersey group, which had caught Bardet. At the 6km to go mark Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R) put in a dig and Valverde popped out of the back of the group.

            Bardet, Tejay van Garderen, Peraud, and Nibali pushed on as Valverde struggled. With 5km to go for the yellow jersey group Nibali attacked and only Peraud was able to follow. Behind Pinot, van Garderen, and Bardet teamed up to chase as Valverde struggled on. Valverde was not alone though he had two teammates with him who had been in the early break.

            Just under 4km to go and the lead group had doubled to two, Majka and Visconti. Majka seemed comfortable and relaxed as he gave a wink for the camera. The duo held a lead of 1’34” over Nibali and Peraud and a further 20” over the trio of Pinot, Bardet, and van Garderen. Valverde could still see the chasing trio so he was not that far behind.

            Majka made his move with 2.4km to go and all Visconti could do was watch him go up the road, unable to follow him. The GC men continued to chug along up the climb and pick up the remnants of the breakaway. Peraud and Nibali were moving clear of the chasing trio, as they were more than 40” ahead.

            Inside the final km Rafal Majka gave another wink to the camera, as he knew he had the stage win and he would be keeping and extending his lead in the King of Mountains Competition. The time gaps everyone cared about would start when Nibali and Peraud crossed the line. 49” after Nibali and Peraud crossed the line Valverde crossed the line to the shock of many. Valverde had set a steady rhythm the last 5km and had clawed his way back up and passed his rivals for second overall. Pinot, Bardet, and van Garderen finished the stage 5” after Valverde. At the end of the day Vincenzo Nibali extended his lead, but things got even tighter in the race for the podium. Places 2-4 are separated by just 39”

Stage 17 Results

Stage Winner: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)
Yellow Jersey: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
White Jersey: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)

Polka Dot Jersey: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)

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