Rafal Majka of Tinkoff-Saxo has taken his second stage win of the 2014 Tour de France, attacking on the day's final climb to Saint-Lary - Pla d'Adet in the Pyrenees and getting across to Movistar's Giovanni Visconti before dropping the Italianwith 2 kilometres remaining.
The Pole led the mountains classification by a single point from Katusha's Joaquin Rodriguez this morning, but with the Spaniard dropped he extends his margin with double points on offer on the final Hors-Categorie climb.
Visconti finished second, 23 seconds behind, with Astana's Vincenzo Nibali thrid to consolidate his lead. One of the day's main losers was Movistar's Alejandro Valverde, second overall this morning but dropped from the group containing the riders threatening his position.
Majka, called up to the team as a late replacement for Roman Kreuziguer pulled out of the squad due to irregularities in his biological passport, took his first stage victory at Risoul on Sunday to help Tinkoff-Saxo put the disappointment of losing Alberto Contador behind him.
On the first of today’s four climbs, the Category 1 Col de Portillon, Rodriguez took the maximum points 10 points on offer to become virtual leader of the mountains classification, but Majka was eyeing a bigger prize – the stage win, and the 50 points that came with it – and the Katusha man was unable to stay with him on the last ascent.
Team Sky’s Vasil Kiryienka attacked from a 22-man breakaway group approaching the day’s second climb, the Col du Peyresourde with 55 kilometres left to ride, but was caught with 22 kilometres remaining ahead of the summit of the penultimate climb, the Col de Val Louron-Azet.
Besides Majka’s stage-winning attack, the other big move on the final ascent came from Nibali, who extends his lead over Valverde to 5 minutes 26 seconds.
AG2R’s Jean-Christophe Peraud was able to follow Valverde, and now lies fourth overall, 42 seconds behind the Spaniard and just 8 seconds down on fellow Frenchman Thibaut Pinot of FDJ.fr.
With the final day in the mountains tomorrow, featuring the Tourmalet and the Hautacam, and an individual time trial looming in Friday, there is a real prospect of France having two men on the podium for the first time since 1984.
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Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.