Rafal Majka of Tinkoff-Saxo attacked from the break on the Col du Tourmalet, the last but one climb of today’s Stage 11 of the Tour de France, to set himself up for a fine solo win, finishing a minute ahead of Cannondale-Garmin’s Dan Martin, with German champion Emmanuel Buchmann of Bora-Argon 18 third. Chris Froome of Team Sky remains race leader.
Earlier in the 188km stage from Pau to Cauterets - Vallée de Saint-Savin, the Polish rider had crested the Tourmalet, one of the Tour de France’s most iconic summits at the head of the race to scoop the Souvenir Jacques Goddet and with it a prize of 5,000 euro.
The next men over were fellow survivors of the break, Serge Pauwels of MTN-Qhubeka, 1 minute 45 seconds down, and Buchmann, a further 15 seconds back, closely followed by Martin. The pair would overhaul Pauwels, who finished fourth, on the final climb.
On the Tourmalet, more than five minutes behind the Polish rider at the head of the race, Team Sky’s Richie Porte, wearing the polka dot jersey by virtue of mountains classification leader Froome being in the race leader's yellow jersey, was setting the pace at the front of the GC group.
Tucked in behind him were team mates Geraint Thomas, fifth overall, as well as Froome.
Most of the riders seen as the overall contenders at the start of the race – Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador, defending champion Vibcenzo Nibali of Astana, Movistar’s Nairo Quintana and BMC Racing’s Tejay van Garderen – were in that group.
But others had been dropped by the time Thomas took up duties at the front towards the summit, notably Etixx-Quick Step’s Rigoberto Uran, and Giant-Alpecin’s Warren Barguil.
Despite a dicey moment or two on the long descent from the Tourmalet, Majka, who won the polka dot jersey in last year’s race, held on to win the stage despite a late charge by Martin.
Porte was once again on the front of the a much reduced main group ahead of the final Category 3 climb to the finish, with Froome maintaining his lead over his rivals as he finished ninth, with Nibali yet again distanced in what is turning out to be a tough defence of his title.
Rafal Majka of Tinkoff-Saxo, winner of Stage 11
The stage win was not an objective today but I found an opportunity. I followed an attack and I saw a lot of guys suffering a lot. When we had 45 seconds lead, my sport director told me to go.
A lot of people asked me before the Tour de France if I was going for the polka dot jersey again but it's not easy because I came to the Tour to help Alberto Contador.
There are another long two weeks of racing and I'll be able to tell you more only after stage 20. My performances at the Tour since last year and Michal Kwiatkowski's world champion title are making cycling more and more popular in Poland. The number of licensees has increased by 40 per cent.
Race leader, Chris Froome of Team Sky
It's been another very hard stage. Maybe for the viewers it's been calm but I can guarantee that a lot of people have left a lot of energy on the road with the temperatures and the high speed of the first two hours of racing.
My team-mates have kept the race under control. They were always around me, focused from km 0 till the end. We've seen guys jumping around to gain time for GC positions. For now I certainly don't need to go onto the attack. Defence is enough as guys are putting me under pressure.
Vincenzo [Nibali] had a tough day yesterday. He was obviously feeling well today so he got his team-mates to pull in the Tourmalet. He lost some time at the end but it means the race is not over yet and I can expect to be put in difficulty every day.
Tomorrow we'll have a decisive stage finishing at Plateau de Beille and that's a tough climb! A lot of guys will feel the effects of the hard racing we've had today.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.