Froome’s Tour dominance continues

Britain’s Chris Froome maintained his grip on the Tour de France yellow jersey as Rafal Majka claimed stage 11.

Team Sky’s Froome finished the 188km route from Pau to Cauterets alongside most of his rivals, and leads Tejay van Garderen by two minutes and 52 seconds.

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali lost 50 seconds as he was dropped in the final stretch, following the arduous climb up the Col du Tourmalet.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Majka finished a minute ahead of Ireland’s Dan Martin.

It was Pole Majka’s third stage win at the Tour after two victories in 2014 and he looked a sure bet to reach Cauterets first from the moment that he burst off the front of a breakaway group of seven riders during the climb up to the Tourmalet.

Cows crossing the road at the Tour de France

Dangers and obstacles take many forms at the Tour de France

“I knew this stage would be hard but I like this weather when it is warm and today I had a positive opportunity,” said Majka. “I am so happy and this victory is for my team-mates and

Ivan Basso.”

There were relatively few problems for 30-year-old Froome on another hot day in the Pyrenees, with the stage lacking the drama of

his spectacular attack

on the climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin on Tuesday.

He was always protected by team-mates Geraint Thomas, who remains fifth in the general classification, and Richie Porte and there were no meaningful attacks from his general classification rivals Van Garderen, Nibali, Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador, as everyone seemed content to let the breakaway contest the stage win.

“My team-mates rode fantastically,” said Froome. “They really kept a hold and kept a control on a race that could have blown out of control very easily.”

Indeed, the big loser of the day was Italian Nibali, who appeared to be in much better form than he showed on Tuesday only to fall off the back of the yellow jersey group as it made its way up the short but steep climb of Cote de Cauterets.

By that point Dutch rider Bauke Mollema had sprinted off the front to take the vital seconds that allowed him to force his way into the top 10 in the overall standings – his place coming at Nibali’s expense.

Rafal Majka celebrates his stage win

Tinkoff-Saxo rider Majka was the King of the Mountains at the 2014 Tour

Froome did lose two seconds to Alejandro Valverde after the Spaniard’s late sprint but the Team Sky rider still has an advantage of almost four minutes over the Movistar rider.

The Team Sky leader also remains top of the King of the Mountains classification – and with team-mate Porte still second the Australian will once again wear the polka dot jersey on Thursday.

But Peter Sagan wrestled back the green jersey as the race’s leading sprinter after finishing above Andre Greipel in the day’s intermediate sprint.

Those were relatively minor considerations on a day that comprised four category three climbs, the category one Col d’Aspin and the hors catergorie Tourmalet.

It was a day of attacks from the moment the Tour left Pau and with more punishing conditions there were six withdrawals, including two from the AG2R-La Mondiale team.

A superb ride from Martin enabled him to cross from the main group to a breakaway of six and they remained together until Majka made his move.

It is unlikely that a breakaway will claim the stage on Thursday, when another tough day in the Pyrenees will end with a 15.8km climb up to Plateau de Beille.

“This race isn’t over,” added Froome. “I can expect every day that someone’s going to try to take the race on and make it difficult and try to get some time back.”

“The calm after the storm”

BBC Sport’s Matt Slater:

“This felt like the calm after the storm. That is not to say nothing happened: it just did not happen at the sharp end.

“The first hour was some of the most furious racing we have seen at this year’s race as breaks escaped, got caught and went again with a new cast.

“The winner, last year’s King of the Mountains Rafal Majka, got in the right group and then went solo on the Tourmalet. Dan Martin tried to make it a duo but ran out of road for the second time in five days.

“This was fine by Chris Froome. Sheltered by Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard early on, his climbing buddies Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas helped him home.

“Astana tried to test Team Sky on the Tourmalet but it looked like it was their leader Vincenzo Nibali who suffered the most. The other challengers just kept their heads down, perhaps thinking about podium places, not yellow.”

See the full standings

Stage 11 results

1. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 5hrs 2mins 1sec

2. Daniel Martin (Ire) Cannondale-Garmin +1min

3. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Argon +1min 23secs

4. Serge Pauwels (Bel) MTN-Qhubeka +2mins 8secs

5. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar +3mins 34secs

6. Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis +3mins 34secs

7. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory +5mins 11secs

8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar +5mins 19secs

9. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky +5mins 21secs

10. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo +5mins 21secs

General Classification after stage 11

1. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky 41hrs 3mins 31secs

2. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing +2mins 52secs

3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar +3mins 9secs

4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar +3mins 59secs

5. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky +4mins 3secs

6. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo +4mins 4secs

7. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal +4mins 33secs

8. Robert Gesink (Ned) Team Lotto NL-Jumbo +4mins 35secs

9. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin +6mins 44secs

10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory +7mins 5secs

Selected others:

11. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana +7mins 47secs

16. Dan Martin (Ire) Cannondale-Garmin +16mins 38secs

31. Adam Yates (GB) Orica-GreenEdge +31mins 11secs

Dan Martin at the Tour de France

Dan Martin finished second for the second time at the 2015 Tour

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cycling/33541257

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