Rafal Majka of Team Saxo-Tinkoff took the stage win after a superb win on Stage 11. The defending King of the Mountain really showed his intention to defend his title, having been the first to climb the Hors Category climb today. There were no major changes in the Overall Classification but Nibali once again lost time on his rivals, almost effectively ending his Tour defence.
Stage 11 was a 188 km stage from Pau to Cauterets, as the Tour finished its second of three days in the Pyrenees. 6 Climbs (1 Hors Category, Category One, three category 3 climbs and a category 4 climb) and an intermediate sprint at the 56.5 km mark were the prominent features in today’s stage.
The first breakway consisted of Lieuwe Westra, Michal Kwiatkowski, Bob Jungels and Edvald Boasson Hagen who were unable to really pull away and were caught 47 km into the stage. Greipel and Cavendish were unable to get into position for the intermediate sprint. Sagan, who finished second in that sprint, has now taken control of his beloved Green Jersey.
The stage saw 6 riders withdraw, including Rui Costa (a shocker). There were numerous attacks but Team Sky managed to reel them in. The final and main attack was orchestrated by Thomas Voeckler and Rafal Majka, joined by Dan Martin who has been looking for his first stage win in this tour. Before the summit of the category 1 climb on Col d’Aspin, Martin attacked. He took maximum points as the first to the summit.
Majka however, showed his abilities in the mountains. He took a lead of 7 km before the Summit of the hardest climb of the day, Col du Tourmalet (it was a Hors Category climb). From then on, it was clear that the other riders were fighting to win second. The big General Contender favorites were not aggressive as they kept a check on each other.
The gap between Majka and the Maillot Juane never fell below between 5 minutes. Serge Pauwels of MTH-Qhubeka was the second rider to breakaway and looked set to take second in the stage. Dan Martin thought otherwise. The Irish rider blitzed his way forward. He was the only rider to gain time on Majka, but it was not enough. Maybe, if he started his attack earlier it would have been a different story as his pace was superior to anyone in the final 5 km (After passing Pauwels, he was cycling more than 10km/hr faster than the MTH rider).
When the group consisting of the Yellow Jersey and other general contender favorites approached the final climb of the day, they were more interested in keeping a watch on each other. Their supporting cast having done their job began to fall behind the group. What surprised many was Nibali, the defending champion cracking once again. It’s the second consecutive day this has happened. The Italian lost several minutes to Froome yesterday and lost a further 50 seconds today. His title defense might effectively be over.
The General Classification Top 20
The Points Classification Top 20
The King of the Mountains Top 20
Tomorrow is the final day in the Pyrenees. Will Chris Froome be able to solidify his hold on the Maillot Juane with a commanding performance after a strict defensive ride today?