Majka wins as Froome holds lead
Published 15/07/2015 | 16:36
Rafal Majka won stage 11 of the Tour de France to Cauterets as Chris Froome defended his considerable advantage in the yellow jersey.
Majka, the Polish rider who won two stages of the 2014 Tour as well as the King of the Mountains title, soloed to victory on the 188-kilometre route from Pau, with Birmingham-born Irishman Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) second, one minute behind.
Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Argon) was third and Froome (Team Sky) rolled in 5mins 21secs behind Majka in ninth place as part of an elite group.
The bunch included the main protagonists, so Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) remained 2:52 behind in second place overall and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) third, 3:09 adrift.
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) stayed fifth, 4:03 back, and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) 4:04 behind in sixth.
Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) began the day 6:57 adrift and lost further time, finishing 50secs behind Froome to fall almost eight minutes adrift. His hopes of a successful title defence are apparently over.
Thursday's stage 12 is the 195km from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille and is the final Pyrenees stage of the race.
On Friday the peloton begin the traverse east towards the Alps with the route from Muret to Rodez, a stage Lance Armstrong will ride as part of Le Tour-One Day Ahead on Thursday alongside Geoff Thomas, the former England footballer who is hoping to raise £1million for Cure Leukaemia.
Martin broke clear of the peloton to join the day's early seven-man breakaway, which included Majka.
The eight-rider group had a large advantage atop the Col d'Aspin, the fourth of the day's six categorised climbs.
The punishing ascent of the hors categorie (beyond category) Col du Tourmalet splintered the breakaway as behind them Nibali's Astana squad led the peloton.
The tempo set by the defending champion's squad strung out the bunch as up ahead Majka attacked.
Majka led Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka) over the summit of the 17.1km climb.
The descent had more obstacles than usual as the free grazing cattle crossed the road, Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) just missing one cow as it stepped out.
Froome's group was around six minutes adrift of Majka, who had to maintain his advantage over Pauwels and negotiate the category three Cote de Cauterets and the final 3km to claim a third Tour stage win in two years.
Martin overtook Pauwels on the lower slopes of the finishing ascent, but left himself too much to do as Majka took victory.
Team Sky allowed others to break clear of the Froome group, but none are realistic contenders and the 30-year-old leader was content to coast in, another stage completed. Ten remain en route to Paris on July 26.