Majka closes in on polka dot jersey as Nibali gains more ground

Wed Jul 23, 2014 12:53pm EDT
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By Julien Pretot

ST LARY PLA D'ADET France (Reuters) - Poland's Rafal Majka took a big step toward winning the Tour de France polka dot jersey when he took a solo route to the stage victory on Wednesday as Italian Vincenzo Nibali strengthened his grip on the overall race.

Majka was the best climber on the 17th stage, a brutal 124.5-km trek from St Gaudens featuring four tough ascents, and extended his lead over Nibali and Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez in the mountain classification.

The win was his second stage victory after prevailing on the 14th stage in the Alps, and a third in four stages for Tinkoff-Saxo after leader Alberto Contador crashed out.

"I'm so happy because my team worked so hard for that result," said Majka, who has 149 points in the mountain classification.

Nibali has 118 and Rodriguez 112 with 80 points left up for grabs.

Italian Giovanni Visconti was second with Nibali taking third place to extend his overall race lead to over five minutes.

"It was a nervous stage, I'm relieved," the calm Nibali said.

France's Jean-Christophe Peraud was fourth as he gained more than 50 seconds on compatriot Thibaut Pinot, who struggled in the final climb.   Continued...

Tinkoff-Saxo team rider Ral Majka (R) of Poland cycles ahead of Movistar team rider Giovanni Visconti of Italy to win the 124.5km seventeenth stage of the Tour de France cycle race between Saint-Gaudens and Saint-Lary Pla d'Adet, July 23, 2014.    REUTERS/Christian Hartmann