2014 King of the Mountains Rafal Majka won stage 11 of the Tour de France after an attack on the Col du Tourmalet gave him a gap which he kept to the top of the summit finish on the Cote de Cauterets.
The second summit finish in the Pyrenees began with an attack from four riders, including World Champion Michael Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep), Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka); but they weren’t allowed to get far as Lampre-Merida and Cannondale kep them at 20″.
Despite the peloton’s reluctance the quartet eventually managed to break the elastic and their lead went out to 40″ after 24km of racing and stayed that way until 41km when the gap started to fall as the race approached the first climb of the day – the cat 3 Cote de Loucrup.
The quartet were caught on the climb and on the descent the peloton was split into two with Greipel in the second group coming up to the intermediate sprint at Pouzac. Greipel’s Lotto-Soudal team helped him to chase back on at the sprint it was Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) who took full points with Sagan third. Greipel managed to get back to the front group but only managed to take 9th at the sprint, meaning Sagan will be in the green jersey again tomorrow.
The race was all together on the category 4 climb of the Cote de Bagneres-de-Bigorre and on the descent a group of 15 riders managed to get a gap, including 2014 GC podium Romain Bardet (AG2R) and GC hopeful Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) but these were soon brought back by Team Sky.
More attacks came and went on the appraoch and the climb of the category 4 Cote ed Mauzevin, but none were strong enough to escape the pace set by the Team Sky led peloton until a group of seven riders finally managed to get away after 90km of racing.
The group contained last year’s KOM winner Rafal Majka from Tinkoff-Saxo, Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler and German Champion Emmanuel Buchmann (Bora-Argon 18). Also present were Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka), Steve Morabito and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Julien Simon (Cofidis); their lead extending to 4’10” as the stage reached the halfway point.
Dan Martin decided he wanted to be in the leading group and he attacked the peloton to try and bridge across along with Astana’s Andre Grivko, the pair getting an advantage of 3’16” on the peloton whilst the break’s lead went out further to 6’12”. On the category 1 climb of the Col d’Aspin Grivko was dropped by Dan Martin who continued on and managed to cut the deficit to 2’30”.
With 5km to go Demare was slipping back from the breakaway as Martin caught and passed him, making it to the breakaway group with a few km to spare. As the summit approached Martin had recovered enough to attack and took full points at the top of the climb.
As the breakaway hit the lower slopes of the HC Col du Tourmalet – for the 80th time in Tour de France history – the break’s advantage was 7’20”. Demare had managed to get back onto the breakaway but was swiftly dropped again as the race headed upwards. The Astana led peloton had begun to increase the pace, cutting the break’s lead to 6’40” and dropping Pinot, Sagan, Greipel and others out of the back.
As the Tourmalet began to take it’s toll on the peloton and the breakaway – their gap falling to 4’55” – Rafal Majka attacked the breakaway in a bid for the Souvenir Jacques Goddet and 5,000 euro prize at the top of the climb. Majka’s attack was enough to get him 55″ seconds on the breakaway with 5km to the top of the climb as the chasing group tried to bring him back.
The peloton had dwindled to a leading bunch of 14 riders including all the GC hopefuls, with Froome and Team Sky represented strongest in the group with team mates Thomas and Porte along with Contador, Van Garderen, Quintana, Valverde, Nibali and Rolland all distancing the rest of the peloton.
Majka was able to take the points at the top of the Tourmalet and collect the Souvenir Jacques Goddet along with 25 KOM points. The breakaway followed more than 1’30” behind him, with the GC group led by Froome following another 4′ down. On the descent Pauwels attacked from the initial breakaway group to try and bridge to Majka and manged to get a gap as Dan Martin and Emmanuel Buchmann joined him. The trio quickly got a gap of 3’45” ahead of the chasing group and were 1’45” behind Majka as the GC group was just 40″ behind the group they had attacked from.
Despite their efforts Martin and Buchmann were dropped after another attack from Pauwels as he attempted to get across to Majka. Majke now led Pauwels by 1’15” with 17km to go as he continued his descent of the Tourmalet. He was 1’50” ahead of Martin and Buchmann, 5’40” ahead of the GC group and a further 6′ ahead of the rest of the peloton.
As the race entered the final 10 and the category 3 summit finish climb of the Cote de Cauterets Majka’s gap had reduced slightly to just 1’15” on Pauwels, with Martin and Buchmann a further 35″ back. The peloton were still 6′ behind Majka and Richie Porte was keeping the pace high for Team Sky to prevent any attacks from the GC riders in the group.
Martin wasn’t willing to give up that easily though and with 7km to go he accelerated, dropping Buchmann and gaining time on Pauwels.With 5km to go Majka was looking strong as he got out of the saddle on the Cauterets, whilst Pauwels looked to be fading as Martin fast approached from behind, rapidly closing the deficit to just 13″.
At 3.1km to go Martin caught Pauwels and went straight past him to try and make up the deficit of 1’33” up to Majka, who was increasing his gap on the GC group as they eased off the pace on the climb.
Into the last km Majka had 1’23” on Martin who was unable to catch the 2014 King of the Mountains as he took the first stage win for Tinkoff-Saxo.