Sky protects Froome's Tour lead as Majka wins Stage 11
CAUTERETS, France (AP) — Rafal Majka led a solo breakaway to win the 11th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday, dusting a small group of rivals on the hardest climb of Day 2 in the Pyrenees mountains as Chris Froome easily retained the yellow jersey.
The stage victory by Majka, a Pole who won two at last year's Tour, gave some new glory to his Tinkoff Saxo Bank team that has been downbeat over then troubles of its leader, two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador. Tinkoff Saxo became the seventh squad to win a stage this year in a sign of well-distributed honors in a race otherwise dominated by Froome's powerful Team Sky.
The 25-year-old Majka presented little threat to Froome: He had begun the 188-kilometer (117-mile) stage from Pau to Cauterets more than 44 1/2 minutes behind the British race leader. Froome finished more than five minutes back along with the other pre-race favorites.
Majka, who last year took home the polka dot jersey awarded to the race's best climber, burst out of a breakaway bunch on the way up the Tourmalet pass — the highest and most frequently visited Tour peak in the Pyrenees — and was the first over it. For that achievement, he won a 5,000 euro ($5,500) prize awarded in honor of a former Tour race director.
The day's results had little impact on the overall standings, a day after a superior Froome impressed his top rivals by winning Stage 10, which featured a tough uphill finish.
Froome's gap after 10 stages was the biggest at this phase of the race since at least 2006 — the year after Lance Armstrong won his last Tour before his seven titles were stripped for doping throughout his career.
Froome played down talk about the race already being all but over, telling French TV before the stage: "A bad day in the mountains, and three minutes can disappear."