Rafal Majka wins Stage 14 of La Vuelta on La Pandera

Vuelta a Espana 2017

Stage 14

Poland’s Rafal Majka held on for a magnificent win in Stage 14 of La Vuelta atop the savage Sierra de la Pandera climb as Vincenzo Nibali slashed Chris Froome’s lead in the battle for red by a handful of seconds.

Italian Nibali, of Bahrain Merida, edged Britain’s Froome for third place and four precious bonus seconds to cut the Team Sky rider’s overall lead to 55 seconds after a thrilling day in Andalusia.

Victory – a third for Poland in this year’s Vuelta after Tomasz Marczynski’s double – went to majestic Majka of Bora-Hansgrohe, the last man standing from a 10-man breakaway, who crossed the line 27 seconds clear of the Colombian Migel Angel Lopez of Astana.

Majka started the final climb of the 175km stage in a reduced leading group of five riders with a two-minute advantage over the chasing pack. And despite a flurry of attacks from the race favourites – most notably Nibali, the Spanish veteran Alberto Contador and the Colombian Esteban Chaves – Majka held on for the first Vuelta stage win of his career.

“I feel great,” grinned 27-year-old Majka, who saw the start of his race hampered by illness.

“I came to La Vuelta for the general classification but I got sick and almost went home. But now I win. I’m so happy – not just for the win and myself, but for my team, who always believed in me.”

Russia’s Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Dutchman Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) finished in the same group as Nibali and Froome, while Trek-Segafredo’s Contador crossed the line six seconds down for seventh place.

Contador rose a place to eight on GC at the expense of the Canadian Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) who struggled to keep up with the big favourites on the challenging final climb – along with the likes of Italian national champion Fabio Aru (Astana) and, eventually, Chaves of Orica-Scott.

The impressive Kelderman rose to third place on GC, 2’17” down on Froome, with Chaves dropping below Zakarin to fifth at 2’39”.

Fifth coming into the stage, the Spaniard David de la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) dropped to seventh place after fading on the double-digit ramps of La Pandera – dubbed the ‘Angliru of the South’.

Majka was part of a 10-man group that formed 25km into an undulating stage that passed through the rolling countryside around Jaen, the world capital of olive oil production.

The break – which featured Majka’s Bora-Hansgrohe team-mate Patrick Konrad, the polka dot jersey Davide Villella and his Cannondale-Drapac team-mate Simon Clarke, Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport) and Ricardo Vilela (Manzana Postobon) – opened up a maximum gap of almost eight minutes before Astana, Bahrain Merida and Trek-Segafredo combined to cut the advantage.

Villella took maximum points over the first two climbs to extend his polka dot jersey tally to 49 points – some 21 points clear Majka, the double Tour de France polka dot jersey winner, who has now emerged as his nearest rival.

Majka celebrates while crossing the finish line.

By the time the Italian crested the summit of the Cat.2 Puerto Locubin, the lead group had been reduced to five riders – with Bora duo Majka and Konrad joining De Clercq, Costa and Villella on the front of the race.

Behind, it was the Quick-Step Floors team of De la Cruz who took the initiative and blew the already streamlined peloton apart on the descent and subsequent ramp through the town of Valdepeñas de Jaen ahead of the decisive climb.

Villella, Konrad, De Clercq and Costa were all dropped one by one at the start of the Sierra de la Pandera climb as Majka rode clear in pursuit of solo glory.

With 10km remaining, the Pole’s advantage over the pack was precarious: just 1’20”, in fact, as Astana sent men onto the front. But with Aru struggling, Astana eased up – and Majka saw his advantage creep back up.

The first significant attacks came from Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Richard Carapaz (Movistar), who rode clear of a small main pack with 4km remaining just as Costa was reeled in – leaving Majka as the only man out ahead.

Chaves joined his fellow Colombian Carapaz and Frenchman Bardet ahead of the main pack before a big acceleration from Nibali prompted a response from Contador.

As Majka’s lead came down to less than a minute, the GC favourites traded blows – but no game-changing punches. Aru, De la Cruz and Chaves may have been slightly distanced, but Froome – being expertly paced by Sky team-mate Wout Poels – was able to neutralise the dual attack of Nibali and Contador.

In the end, it was Lopez who took advantage of a lull following a little dig by Kelderman, and the Colombian Stage 11 winner zipped clear inside the final 2km.

Majka was given a reprieve by the downhill segment following the flamme rouge – and despite the activity behind him, the man who finished third in the 2015 Vuelta was able to hold on for a maiden win in Spain.

Among the race favourites, Kelderman and Zakarin were the big winners – the Dutchman rising onto the provisional podium while his Russian counterpart ghosting into fourth.

Both riders are solid against the clock and so could pose a threat in next week’s time trial – although it remains to be seen how much Kelderman will miss his compatriot and team-mate Sam Oomen, who withdrew from the race with illness early on during Saturday’s stage.

If there was nothing separating Froome and Nibali – the two main protagonists of this race – besides a handful of bonus seconds, then the script is set for Sunday’s regal Stage 15 – a short but immensely sharp 129.4km ride from Alcala la Real to the otherworldly summit of the 2,510m Alto de la Mora in the breathtakingly beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains.

Game on in the battle for red.

Vuelta a Espana stage 14 results

  • 1. Rafal Majka (Poland / BORA-hansgrohe) 4:42:10″
  • 2. Miguel Angel Lopez (Colombia / Astana Pro Team) +27″
  • 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Bahrain-Merida) +31″
  • 4. Chris Froome (Britain / Team Sky)
  • 5. Ilnur Zakarin (Russia / Katusha-Alpecin)
  • 6. Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands / Team Sunweb)
  • 7. Alberto Contador (Spain / Trek-Segafredo) +37″
  • 8. Wout Poels (Netherlands / Team Sky) +46″
  • 9. Esteban Chaves (Colombia / Orica-Scott) +57″
  • 10. Fabio Aru (Italy / Astana Pro Team) +1:03″
  • 11. Michael Woods (Canada / Cannondale-Drapac) +1:13″
  • 12. Pello Bilbao (Spain / Astana Pro Team) +1:19″
  • 13. Romain Bardet (France / AG2R La Mondiale)
  • 14. Richard Carapaz (Ecuador / Movistar Team)
  • 15. David De La Cruz (Spain / Quick-Step Floors)
  • 16. Steven Kruijswijk (Netherlands / LottoNL-Jumbo)
  • 17. Tejay van Garderen (U.S. / BMC Racing Team) +1:43″
  • 18. Daniel Moreno (Spain / Movistar Team) +1:49″
  • 19. Nicolas Roche (Ireland / BMC Racing Team) +2:15″
  • 20. Sergio Pardilla (Spain / Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) +3:01″
  • 21. Louis Meintjes (South Africa / UAE Team Emirates)
  • 22. Mikel Nieve (Spain / Team Sky) +4:07″
  • 23. Bart De Clercq (Belgium / Lotto-Soudal) +4:12″
  • 24. Luis Angel Mate (Spain / Cofidis, Solutions Credits) +5:20″
  • 25. Rui Costa (Portugal / UAE Team Emirates) +5:33″
  • 26. Tobias Ludvigsson (Sweden / FDJ) +6:09″
  • 27. Franco Pellizotti (Italy / Bahrain-Merida) +6:44″
  • 28. Stef Clement (Netherlands / LottoNL-Jumbo) +6:50″
  • 29. Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia / Trek-Segafredo) +8:16″
  • 30. Bob Jungels (Luxembourg / Quick-Step Floors)

Classification from Vuelta a Espana after Stage 14 

  • 1. Chris Froome (Britain / Team Sky) 58:30:47″
  • 2. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Bahrain-Merida) +55″
  • 3. Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands / Team Sunweb) +2:17″
  • 4. Ilnur Zakarin (Russia / Katusha-Alpecin) +2:25″
  • 5. Esteban Chaves (Colombia / Orica-Scott) +2:39″
  • 6. Fabio Aru (Italy / Astana Pro Team) +3:09″
  • 7. David De La Cruz (Spain / Quick-Step Floors) +3:11″
  • 8. Alberto Contador (Spain / Trek-Segafredo) +3:19″
  • 9. Michael Woods (Canada / Cannondale-Drapac) +3:23″
  • 10. Miguel Angel Lopez (Colombia / Astana Pro Team) +3:48″
  • 11. Wout Poels (Netherlands / Team Sky) +5:16″
  • 12. Tejay van Garderen (U.S. / BMC Racing Team) +5:44″
  • 13. Nicolas Roche (Ireland / BMC Racing Team) +6:09″
  • 14. Steven Kruijswijk (Netherlands / LottoNL-Jumbo) +6:38″
  • 15. Louis Meintjes (South Africa / UAE Team Emirates) +8:56″
  • 16. Sergio Pardilla (Spain / Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) +12:46″
  • 17. Mikel Nieve (Spain / Team Sky) +15:49″
  • 18. Igor Anton (Spain / Team Dimension Data) +22:27″
  • 19. Daniel Moreno (Spain / Movistar Team) +24:52″
  • 20. Romain Bardet (France / AG2R La Mondiale) +30:05″
  • 21. Darwin Atapuma (Colombia / UAE Team Emirates) +33:48″
  • 22. Stef Clement (Netherlands / LottoNL-Jumbo) +38:18″
  • 23. Jaime Roson (Spain / Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) +41:46″
  • 24. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spain / Movistar Team) +43:03″
  • 25. Franco Pellizotti (Italy / Bahrain-Merida) +43:42″
  • 26. Luis Angel Mate (Spain / Cofidis, Solutions Credits) +43:47″
  • 27. Jan Polanc (Slovenia / UAE Team Emirates) +44:02″
  • 28. Jack Haig (Australia / Orica-Scott) +45:31″
  • 29. Sander Armee (Belgium / Lotto-Soudal) +45:47″
  • 30. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spain / Astana Pro Team) +46:22″

Points Classification Vuelta a Espana after Stage 14 

  • 1. Matteo Trentin (Italy / Quick-Step Floors) 103
  • 2. Chris Froome (Britain / Team Sky) 98
  • 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Bahrain-Merida) 79
  • 4. Pawel Poljanski (Poland / BORA-hansgrohe) 58
  • 5. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spain / Movistar Team) 57
  • 6. Tomasz Marczynski (Poland / Lotto-Soudal) 54
  • 7. Miguel Angel Lopez (Colombia / Astana Pro Team) 49
  • 8. Matej Mohoric (Slovenia / UAE Team Emirates) 47
  • 9. Esteban Chaves (Colombia / Orica-Scott) 47
  • 10. Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands / Team Sunweb) 46

Mountain Classification Vuelta a Espana after Stage 14

  • 1. Davide Villella (Italy / Cannondale-Drapac) 49
  • 2. Rafal Majka (Poland / BORA-hansgrohe) 28
  • 3. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spain / Movistar Team) 27
  • 4. Chris Froome (Britain / Team Sky) 25
  • 5. Miguel Angel Lopez (Colombia / Astana Pro Team) 20
  • 6. Thomas De Gendt (Belgium / Lotto-Soudal) 19
  • 7. Darwin Atapuma (Colombia / UAE Team Emirates) 18
  • 8. Romain Bardet (France / AG2R La Mondiale) 12
  • 9. Tomasz Marczynski (Poland / Lotto-Soudal) 12
  • 10. Alexandre Geniez (France / AG2R La Mondiale) 11

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