Tour de France: Majka victorious on Pla d'Adet

Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) won his second stage of the Tour de France, soloing in to victory atop the Pla d’Adet. After having duelled for mountain points all day, he secured the polka dot jersey for himself by finishing 28 seconds ahead of Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) with the race leader Vicenzo Nibali (Astana) third.

It was the second stage win for Majka and the second in a row for the Russian team. Tinkoff-Saxo had come to the race to win the overall with Alberto Contador, and admitted that they had no real plan B when the Spaniard had to abandon. But they have now won three of the last four stages, with Michael Rogers winning the 16th stage.

"I'm just so happy about this result and these results that we have accomplished in the last couple of days and today, me teammates really worked hard for me and especially Nico (Roche) was digging hard to set me up on the final climb," Majka said

With double points on the summit finish, Majka came one step closer an overall victory in the mountains classification. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) had diligently gathered points ahead of his rival all along the way, but was unable to match Majka's final kick at the end.

"I didn't go for the first GPM with Rodriguez because Bjarne [Riis] told me wait, wait Rafal, we need to win the stage. When we win the stage, we have the jersey. I won the stage and now I have the jersey."

The stage was a heated competition not only for the stage win and mountains classification, but for the podium placings behind Nibali, and the best young rider competition.

Nibali had no problems, but Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) had to fight to maintain his second place in the general classification as three Frenchman - Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), fought to overtake him.

Peraud responded to an attack by Nibali when Valverde was swinging, and succeeded in closing in on the Spaniard. After beginning the stage 1:31 behind Valverde, he ended the day just 42 seconds in arrears. He gained time on Pinot and Bardet, but more importantly, he is the top time trialist of the trio and stands a strong chance of moving onto the final podium.

Bardet tried to distance Pinot on the descent from the Col du Val Louron-Azet, but was unable to hold his advantage on the final climb, and the two ended the day on the same time, five seconds behind Valverde.

How it unfolded

Stage 17 could have been called "short but not sweet". Only 124.5km long it featured four climbs, three category one followed by a mountaintop finish atop the Hors Categorie Pla d'Adet.

The attacks started as soon as the flag was dropped, and Cyril Gauthier (Europcar), Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp), Martin Elmiger (IAM), Yukio Arashiro (Europcar), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Biel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale), Jens Voigt (Trek) and Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff-Saxo) were the lucky ones to win the breakaway war.

With all those climbs and mountain points to be had, Katusha didn’t want to let the group go. Joaquim Rodriguez was still one point back in the mountains ranking, and was eager to take the take the title home with him.

That meant that the red-clad Russian team moved to the front of the field and led the high-speed chase, with the group never getting more than about a minute away.

The first climb, the Col du Portillon, came at kilometer 57.5, the 8.3km climb averages 7.1%, and proved to be a launching pad for the mountains classification contenders, including Rodriguez, as Astana controlled the peloton.

The Rodriguez group soon caught the lead group, which was falling apart anyway on the climb as the peloton was only 14 seconds or so behind. Also amongst the new 21 rider escape was Majka, who had a slim one-point lead in the mountain ranking over Rodriguez, and soon the two were toying with one another at the head of the race.

The Tinkoff-Saxo rider dropped off though, called off by team manager Bjarne Riis, and a new lead group of Rodriguez, Bauke Mollema (Belkin), Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre), David Lopez (Sky) and Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) formed. A large group was between them and the Nibali group, which had already dropped a large number of riders, at about one minute back.

With 200 meters to the first mountain ranking, Rodriguez attacked to win the 10 points, virtually taking back the polka-dot jersey.