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Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Tinkoff-Saxo rider takes victory atop Pla d'Adet
"After we lost Alberto Contador on stage 10, I spoke with Bjarne and Oleg [Tinkoff-Saxo team manager Bjarne Riis and team owner Oleg Tinkoff], and they said that we needed to fight on and try to win a stage," Majka told the press after winning stage 17. "Not only were we able to win a stage, but we've now won three."
Majka's second stage win came only four days after the 24 year old's first, in the Alps, on stage 14, and just a day after Tinkoff-Saxo teammate Michael Rogers' victory in Bagnères-de-Luchon. Majka also now leads his closest rival in the mountains competition, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), by 31 points, having increased his lead in the fight for the polka-dot jersey.
That fight is a long way from over, but should be decided on Thursday's 18th stage between Pau and Hautacam - the Tour's last day in the mountains - when there are a maximum of 79 points up for grabs towards the jersey. Beyond that, there are only two more points available: one on stage 19 on Friday, and one on the 21st and final stage to Paris on Sunday.
"I certainly hope that I can take this jersey all the way to Paris," a polka-dotted Majka said, "but it's going to be difficult. I tried to drop Rodriguez twice today [Wednesday], and only finally succeeded the third time.
"Bjarne had told me not to go for the points on the first climb, but to wait and instead try to win the stage, as winning the stage would mean taking the double points available on the final climb to the finish."
Majka did exactly that at Pla d'Adet, where he also revealed his new-found love for the Tour de France.
"This is my first Tour, and I've already won two stages, so I'm really happy," said Majka. "I really like this race, which perhaps suits me better than the Giro d'Italia [where he finished seventh overall in 2013 and sixth in 2014]. At the Giro, it's often cold and wet; here we've had a lot more warm weather, and I prefer the climbs here, too."