With his team leader Alberto Contador out, Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka grabbed the spotlight on stage 14 as the peloton traversed Alpine climbs from Grenoble to Risoul.
The 24-year-old Pole grabbed the stage win from a determined breakaway finishing 27 seconds ahead of race leader Vincenzo Nibali in second.
The Italian retains his iron grip over the maillot juane with Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde back 4:37 in second. Contador’s withdrawal after fracturing his tibia on the 10th stage threatened to rob the race of some lustre. Especially coming so soon after defending champion Chris Froome’s own withdrawal five days before.
However when one door closes another opens. As the race progresses, Majka is growing in authority alongside a strong home contingent. Jean-Christophe Peraud held Nibali’s wheel right to the line as he pursued Majka.
Peraud is in sixth place overall whereas AG2R’s Romain Bardet and FDJ.FR’s Thibaut Pinot are better placed again in 3rd and 4th respectively. Both Bardet and Pinot bode well for French cycling in the years to come.
Bernard Hinault was the last Frenchman to wear the yellow jersey into Paris way back in 1985; that is two years before Stephen Roche’s win. But for this year at least, the Tour de France remains firmly in the grip of an Italian.
Alan Casey, Pundit Arena.