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“I’ve reconned that stage and the summit finish at Plateau de Beille is brutal, similar to yesterday’s stage. We’re expecting [Nairo] Quintana and [Alberto] Contador to attack, and I’ll play things how I see it...

Photo: A.S.O.










15.07.2015 @ 18:21 Posted by Andy Pedersen

Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas defended their positions in the general classification by crossing the line in an elite group of riders after Rafal Majka had soloed to victory on the 11th stage of the Tour de France.


Once again, the Team Sky duo benefitted from some incredible support in the Pyrenees, and only eight riders could stick with them as they reached the summit finish in Cauterets.


Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard both took huge turns in setting the pace on the Col d’Aspin, and then Leopold Konig, Peter Kennaugh, Wout Poels and Nicolas Roche helped thin out the bunch as they hit the Col du Tourmalet.


Indeed, as Richie Porte led Froome and Thomas over that summit, only 17 riders were still in the peloton, and the likes of Vincanzo Nibali (Astana), Rigoberto Uran (Etixx – Quick-Step) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) would all be dropped before they crested the Côte de Cauterets.


The pair stayed first and fifth on the overall standings by crossing the line five minutes and 20 seconds down on Majka, who had produced an impeccable display of his own. The Tinkoff-Saxo rider infiltrated a breakaway which moved clear after 80km and then distanced his rivals 5km from the top of the Tourmalet.


Majka descended like a stone, and then climbed brilliantly once again to wrap up the third Tour win of his career by a 57-second margin. Dan Martin (Cannondale Garmin) produced a gutsy ride to seal second place on the stage, with Bora-Argon 18 rider Emanuel Buchmann rounding out the podium.


Froome meanwhile, led his group home in ninth position, with Thomas credited with the same time as the yellow jersey holder in 14th spot.


After the stage, Thomas was happy to reflect on another productive performance and describe his day in the saddle.


He said: “Today, the peloton knew the breakaway would probably succeed so there was a really hard start with nearly two hours on the rivet. Fortunately, we rode well as a unit and when the break went things settled down and we could recover as much as possible before the Tourmalet.


“Astana set a solid pace but me and Richie held in there and took Froomey all the way to the line. Job done.”


Froome meanwhile, heaped more praise on his team-mates before revealing that stage 12 could well be one of the most decisive days of the Tour.


He said: “Today was an extremely tough stage. It's been another very hard stage. Maybe for the viewers it's been calm but I can guarantee that a lot of people have left a lot of energy on the road with the temperatures and the high speed of the first two hours of racing.


"Actually the last two hours have been tough because of the accumulated effects of the first two hours. It's been brutal! It's a pity there wasn't TV coverage of that moment. It was exciting racing. Everyone was at the limit, the breakaway riders to stay at the front, the chasers to lead the peloton… 


“The breakaway took nearly two hours to form and then Astana made the race hard on the Tourmalet. My team were always there though and I still had Geraint and Richie with me at the top. They did a fantastic job to carry me over the summit and I’ve had support every step of the way.


"My team-mates have kept the race under control. They were always around me, focused from km 0 till the end. We've seen guys jumping around to gain time for GC positions.


“I’m in a great position at the moment and have a great team around me. The best thing for us is to ride defensively now and try and follow the other contenders. The other teams need to make things happen and there’s a big battle going on for the GC positions. Guys were jumping around trying to get time on each other today, and we’re certainly expecting a big battle out there tomorrow.


"For now I certainly don't need to go in the attacking. Defense is enough as guys are putting me under pressure. I've seen that my rivals are definitely not demoralized. Vincenzo [Nibali] had a tough day yesterday. He was obviously feeling well today so he got his team-mates to pull in the Tourmalet. He lost some time at the end but it means the race is not over yet and I can expect to be put in difficulty every day. 


"Tomorrow we'll have a decisive stage finishing at Plateau de Beille and that's a tough climb! A lot of guys will feel the effects of the hard racing we've had today.


“I’ve reconned that stage and the summit finish at Plateau de Beille is brutal, similar to yesterday’s stage. We’re expecting [Nairo] Quintana and [Alberto] Contador to attack, and I’ll play things how I see it out on the road.”



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