After finishing second to Vincenzo Nibali on Friday's Stage 13, Polish rider Rafal Majka rode to the victory in Stage 14 on Saturday, beating Nibali to the hilltop finish.
In the second of two days in the Alps, Majka joined the early breakaway group that at one point consisted of 17 riders. Over the first two climbs that group remained mostly intact but it wasn't until the third and final climb, a Category 1 climb into the town or Risoul, that they started to break apart.
With the peloton riding very hard behind them powered by the team of Romain Bardet, the lead group began a series of attacks, first from Alessando de Marchi. It was answered by Majka and one more rider and they quickly shattered the group behind them. Majka kept riding at a high tempo and simply pulled away from the other two riders to become the sole leader.
As he showed on Friday, Majka can climb and climb well. He was able to keep up his pace and at one point even extended his lead. It was enough to get him to the line first for his first career stage win at any of the Grand Tours (Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta de Espana).
Meanwhile behind him on the mountain, the main group of the top competitors began attacking each other again and again. That included a move from the overall leader Nibali that was only matched by French rider Jean-Christophe Peraud. They weren't able to catch Majka as Nibali finished 24 seconds behind but he did put even more time between himself and the other riders in the top 10 of the standings.
The battle going on behind Nibali was further separated when American rider Tejay van Garderen made a move that brought the French duo competing for the White Jersey with him. Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet remained linked and Frank Schleck joined them, leaving Alejando Valverde (who began the day in second place) behind. They lost some time but less than half a minute to Nibali. They also did gain some time on Valverde but not enough to change the order in the top five.
It was an exciting day, the kind of racing that makes the mountains so fun to watch. Attack after attack and the field being split with every rider proving their mettle. There might not be much of a battle for No. 1 at this point but the fight for the other two podium spots is heated, fantastic and tight.
Here is the new-look top 10 after Stage 14 and yes, Nibali is still in front by an even more comfortable margin. One of the big stories of this Tour, a resurgence of French riders, is easily apparent here.
1. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA)
2. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) +4:37
3. Romain Bardet (FRA) +4:50
4. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) +5:06
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) +5:49
6. Jean-Christophe Pereaud (FRA) +6:08
7. Bauke Mollema (NED) +8:33
8. Leopold Konig (CZE) +9:32
9. Laurens Ten Dam (NED) +10:01
10. Pierre Rolland (FRA) +10:48
Photo of the day
If there were any doubt the riders were in the mountains of eastern France, this beautiful picture should remove them. What a terrific shot (via Getty Images).
For the first time in what feels like a long time, the sprinters will truly have their day again. A couple of days in the Alps are followed by a true flat stage of the tour, a 222 kilometer ride in the south of France from Tallard to Nimes.
There are a couple of hills early in the race as they come down from the Alps but not much and nothing worth a classification before they descend to the flat lands and then the final 70 kilometers or so will be nothing but a flat run to the line. It's the type of stage where breakaways should be swallowed up without problem and there will be a great race to the line.
After being left out of the last sprint because of some hills along the way, the stage sets up perfectly for another win from German sprinter Marcel Kittel, who won three races in the first week.