SAN DIEGO, July 19, 2014 – Spanish cycling champion Alberto Contador gave Team Tinkoff-Saxo high hopes for the 2014 Tour de France. Those hopes were crushed when Contador left the race after breaking his leg in a crash.
The team had reason to celebrate today from an unexpected outcome. First time Tour rider Rafal Majka of Poland won Saturday’s Alpine mountain stage, his first ever professional stage victory. Majka was second on Friday in the Alps, and went on the attack for a second day, this time pulling out all the stops to get the win for his teammate and his team.
The plan was to help Alberto Contador in the mountains but we had bad luck. Since his accident, we try to win a stage,” said Majka. “My team-mates and Bjarne said this morning that, shall I go in the breakaway, I’d win the stage. I think we had 1:10 lead at the bottom of the last climb. I attacked and dropped Rodriguez and a Cannondale rider [Alessandro De Marchi] off. I tried to do it alone and I fought for winning.”
Vincenzo Nibali comfortably retained the yellow jersey as he comfortably crossed the finishing line in second place, 24 seconds in back of Majka.
Nibali gained small bits of time on all of his rivals including Alejandro Valverde of Movistar, Romain Bardet of AG2R, Thibaut Pinot of FDJ, and American Tejay Van Garderen of BMC.
“From the team car, I was told: ‘If you still have something in the tank, go for it.’ I was looking at gaining some time over Alejandro Valverde… In any case, Majka deserves his victory. He’s going well. Yesterday he was in the breakaway and today he claimed a beautiful win. I’m happy for him. But I can’t say I let him. I don’t know if I could have caught him. When I accelerated, he already had good advantage of around 50 seconds. My goal was to gain time over Valverde.”
Nibali addressed his critics who say he wouldn’t be leading if his rivals weren’t out of the race. “I don’t see why my lead at the Tour de France would be less valuable because Alberto Contador and Chris Froome aren’t here anymore… I feel sorry for what happened to the others. Unfortunately, crashes are part of cycling. It also happened yesterday to my team-mate Jakob Fuglsang who crashed pretty heavily. All I know is that I worked very seriously with my coach Paolo Slongo. I came here with good form and the intention to fight till the end. I notice that riders who were ahead of me at the Dauphiné are behind at the Tour. Last year I won the Giro, I came second at the Vuelta and I beat Froome and Contador at almost all the races I did with them.”
After a cool and rainy start to the Tour, the weather turned warm the last two days. It has affected the peloton, with several riders dropping out. There are now 171 riders left out of the original 198 who started.
In the race’s overall classification, Valverde moved past Porte into second place, but lost 48 seconds to Nibali. Bardet is in third, Pinot in fourth, and American Tejay Van Garderen moved up to fifth place, within reach perhaps of a podium finish. See the entire classification here.
Nibali’s strong performance in the Alps challenged Joaquim Rodriguez for the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey. Rodriguez kept it Saturday, but knows he will have to work hard to take it into Paris. “This would be something unique in my career. I have a big week ahead. I hope for the best in the Pyrenees, close to home,” said the Spanish rider.
Bardet kept the best young rider’s white jersey by a fraction over fellow countryman Pinot, who are just seconds apart and raced for the finish line in their battle. Peter Sagan retains the green sprinter’s jersey. Alessadro De Marchi of Cannondale won the most combative rider for the second day running.
Stage 15 coming down from the Alps from from Tallard to Nimes is a lengthy transition stage to work off all that lactic acid and muscle fatigue. Unless there is a successful breakaway, the sprinters should get their chance to shine. But Mother Nature may have a say as she did last year, when the wind threw the peloton into disarray. Hair raising for the riders, exciting for the fans.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Follow the Tour de France daily in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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