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Vuelta’17 St14: Majka Masters La Pandera!
Poland’s Rafa Majka (Bora Hansgrohe) pulled off a magnificent solo win atop the savage La Pandera climb to save his own and his team’s Vuelta in winning Stage 14 over 175 tough kilometres. Lone survivor of a day-long break of 10 men, Majka was magnificent but owes much to team mate Patrick Konrad who rode himself into the ground in the escape for his team leader.

Behind Majka there was a dog fight among the GC men with Chris Froome able to parry all thrusts – but also with Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) confirming his arrival as ‘one to watch’ taking second on the day to add to his stage win.

The organisers’ stage preview says;
‘Stage 14, a Mountain Stage: The heat will accompany the peloton during a “leg-breaker” stage with a final climb up La Pandera (HC). The accumulated exhaustion and high temperatures will hinder a stage that could be favourable for a breakaway win, depending on everyone's interests regarding the general classification.’

As for the finish climb of La Pandera;
‘Ever since Damiano Cunego won a stage in 2009 high up in La Pandera, many awaited the Vuelta's return to this peak. The highest point of the Sur de Jaén Mountain Range offers exceptional panoramic views and landscapes. It also provides a long, steep slope with average inclinations of more than 16% and exposed peaks where the wind could be a real problem.’

There are 175 kilometres on the agenda today and most of it is uphill, concluding on the dreadful Pandera.

The break of the day prized clear after around 20 K after a rapid start to the proceedings: Rafal Majka, Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Simon Clarke, Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac), Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport) and Ricardo Vilela (Manzana Postobon) took their lead smoothly out to a maximum seven minutes plus at 80 kilometres to go, before Trek, Bahrain and Astana turned up the wick and the gap began to gradually slide.

As the K’s clicked by the break spelled through the olive groves as the Trek, Bahrain and Astana boys worked for Contador, Nibali and Lopez respectively. Everyone is only too aware that the race is all about the last 12 kilometres.

The break slogs into the Puerto Locubin, second cat. and the appetizer for the Pandera – immediately the break begins to splinter as Katusha lead the charge for Zakarin back in the main peloton – with the back door yawning open.

We’ll take stock at the top; the Froome group has haemorrhaged many bodies but there’s still a big Sky presence - and the break is down to six men with three K to the top.

Villella consolidates his king of the mountains jersey with five points over Locubin – five up front on the descent then, with the gap back to the peloton inside two minutes.

Just six kilometres to the gates of Hades now. There’s a ramp before the Pandera; the break hurts over it as the peloton strings out behind with those greedy QuickSteps headed by Mas to the fore as are Astana. The now four fugitives live in hope – but they’re doomed, surely ? Astana, QuickStep, Sky lead the relentless pursuit.

It’s down to three now – Costa, Majka and De Clerq. The peloton is just a long line now as de Clerq cracks, then Costa – the lone Majka versus the rest of the world with 10 K to ride and 100 seconds lead. Eight K to go now and the wick isn’t turned up full behind as Majka extends his lead to 1:45 over a grimacing Luis Leon Sanchez.

Ultimo kilómetro / Last kilometer - Étape 14... by la_vuelta

The road narrows, Sanchez pops, Jungels has gone, Bilbao leads the peloton for Astana now.

Seven K and the skinny Pole has 1:31 still, Simon Yates pops, Aru is tail gunner – not good, meanwhile team mate Bilbao rips onwards and upwards.

Six K and the lead is 1:26, Bardet is hurting and the group is much diminished. Majka looks good, strong, still riding well – but Sky take it up now with Nieve. They’ll ride simple tempo, Majka is no danger to them.

Inside five K and Majka still has 1:20 on what’s left of the group. Majka’s shoulders rock but not overly so, the rhythm is good and the gear is going round well - the crowd is solidly with him, cheering him to the heavens.

The grade bites, four K to go and Bardet attacks – not good for Majka but he still has 1:15 on the Frenchman. Bardet digs deep, all over the bike; and here comes Chaves – and Bert Contador.

Nibali now with Chaves and Bert – Froome has two men left and they claw back up as Bardet finds reverse. Nibali and Bert push on with Chaves close – Froome has Poels, Woods is there, Tejay and few others.

Inside three K and still Majka has a minute and more. Nibali is strong, looking good, inspired – Bert is right with him. Woods pops, Aru too.

Canadian Michael Woods is top North American in 9th on GC. He'll have no trouble finding a new contract for next year.

Majka has 2500 metres to go and a minute in hand – he can win this. Froome comes back with Lopez – four now in pursuit of the Pole as Chaves and Zakarin come back. So too does Kelderman but there goes Lopez – rocket assisted.

Majka has 1400 metres to ride as the crowd urge him on - Lopez chases like a man possessed. Bert, Chaves, Froome and the rest just want to see the line.

Red kite for Majka, downhill now, there’s the mast at the summit – MAJKA !

Rafa Majka wins and saves Bora’s Vuelta – Lopez, Nibali, Froome, Contador – Chaves on his knees, Woods gasping for air. Another great day for Poland and again Froome defends strongly – but what about Lopez, very impressive.

More of the same tomorrow, maybe even tougher - and all on very tired legs.
Hasta manana !

Vuelta a España Stage 14 Result:
1. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe in 4:42:10
2. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana at 0:27
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 0:31
4. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky
5. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb
7. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 0:37
8. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky at 0:46
9. Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica-Scott at 0:57
10. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 1:03
11. Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac at 1:13
12. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana at 1:19
13. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
14. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar
15. David de la Cruz (Spa) Quick-Step Floors
16. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
17. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC at 1:43
18. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Movistar at 1:49
19. Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC at 2:15
20. Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 3:01
21. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates
22. Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Sky at 4:07
23. Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 4:12
24. Luis Angel Maté Mardones (Spa) Cofidis at 5:20
25. Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates at 5:33.

Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 14:
1. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky in 58:30:47
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 0:55
3. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb at 2:17
4. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin at 2:25
5. Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica-Scott at 2:39
6. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 3:09
7. David de la Cruz (Spa) Quick-Step Floors at 3:11
8. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 3:19
9. Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac at 3:23
10. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana at 3:48
11. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky at 5:16
12. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC at 5:44
13. Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC at 6:09
14. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 6:38
15. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates at 8:56
16. Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 12:46
17. Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Sky at 15:49
18. Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Dimension Data at 22:27
19. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Movistar at 24:52
20. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 30:05
21. Darwin Atapuma (Col) UAE Team Emirates at 33:48
22. Stef Clement (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 38:18
23. Jaime Roson Garcia (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 41:46
24. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar at 43:03
25. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 43:42


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