Blazin' Saddles

Tour de Farce: Motorised Majka and one bizarre scuffle

Blazin' Saddles

A short and sharp stage in the Pyrenees contained many a subplot outside the Saxo framework. For instance, an incident on the summit of the first of four climbs saw Australia's Luke Durbridge lash out at a Movistar soigneur after he had knocked him off his bike while distributing water bottles to the likes of Alejandro Valverde el al.

Seeing that a media car was yesterday thrown off the race for disrupting Vincenzo Nibali's descent off the Porte de Bales, surely this cackhanded soigneur will lose his licence to prance around mountain tops in nothing but a sleeveless gilet for at least a day...

Polish tyro Rafal Majka proved once again that there is life after Alberto Contador as Tinkoff-Saxo roared to their third stage win of the Tour after Majka's second mountain-top victory of the race.

Just as he did in the Alps at Risoul, Makja repeated the Pyrenees at Pla d'Adet - 21 years after his countryman Zenon Jaskula became Poland's first ever Tour stage winner atop the same lofty peak.

Considering Makja finished second in the opening Alpine stage at Chamrousse, you could say the 24-year-old is very much the stand-out climber of the race - and very much worthy of the polka dot jersey he will now surely take all the way to Paris.

But the main whose proposed polka dot parade he poured down on - Joaquim Rodriguez - was certainly not very happy when Majka supplemented his attack on the final climb of stage 17 with a good old Belgian push-style hand sling off the back of a motorbike antenna.

Quite why Majka felt the urge to slingshot himself off the back of the moto is anyone's guess - the bike clearly wasn't in the way, and the spontaneous act may have caused the vehicle to come down and crush the featherweight mountain flyer in the process.

Struggling already to match Majka's pace, Purito didn't see the funny side and gesticulated wildly as his rival danced further up the road. Majka himself seemed pretty happy with himself - following up his manoeuvre with a cheeky wink.

And why change a winning formula? Once Majka had caught up with lone leader Giovanni Visconti of Movistar, the Pole waited for just the right moment to launch his decisive attack: this time launching himself into another motorbike's slipstream before bring slipstreamed up the hill as fast as a plane crossing the Atlantic.

Check it out for yourself in this video of Majka's final bid for glory...

True to form, Majka followed up his latest motorised manoeuvre with a near-identical wink of total give-a-f*** nonchalance as he approached the final kilometre, this time making the offensive (or playful - take your pick) gesture with his other eye.

Rumour has it that Majka's third wink of the day - carried out while receiving the bouquet from the podium girl - did not go down so well...

Still, with two of the toughest stages of the Tour to his name, Majka is now certainly more chipper than when he arrived in Yorkshire for the Grand Depart still stewing after being selected as a late replacement for the suspended Roman Kreuziger.

For his part, Tinkoff-Saxo owner Oleg Tinkov was primed to bring out the champagne and caviar for the second time in as many days following Mick Rogers' win on Tuesday. Always one to speak his mind, Tinkov's reaction on Twitter (which cannot be reproduced on this family website) was odious and to-the-point: "3 win... F*** them !!!".

Meanwhile, off the front of the breakaway, Vasil Kiryienka rode clear and looked his trademark serene self as those smooth mahogany legs churned out a cruel tempo that saw him edge two minutes ahead.

But then came the Col de Peyresourde and Kiryienka clearly started to pay for his efforts both earlier in the stage and the previous day, when he also led the race up the final climb.

By the time he was caught near the summit, Kiyrienka's Belorussian hit-man face was replaced with that of someone being told they must eat themselves from the inside out in order to save the lives of their kidnapped family.

On the descent, Romain Bardet launched an attack from the group of main favourites to open up a 25 second lead before the foot of the final climb.

Personally, I've always seen Bardet as more of a C-3PO kind of guy.

Thibaut Pinot was also riding these descents as if he knew them like the back of his hand - which, to be fair, he probably did, given his numerous recons ahead of the race. Still, for someone whose supposedly meek descending almost made him quit the sport last year, he's made quite impressive strides.

Funnily enough, it wasn't Pinot or Bardet's downhill ability that did for them in the end - but their climbing. Although they distanced Valverde on the final ascent, the wily Spaniard recovered to take time our of both riders - although veteran Jean-Christophe Peraud moved to within eight seconds of the podium after finishing impressively once again in Nibali's wheel.

But the story of the day was Majka and Tinkoff-Saxo's third victory of the race - proof that Bjarne Riis's team are better equipped at shifting their focus from GC to stage wins than other teams who find themselves in a similar predicament...

Felix Lowe - Twitter: @Saddleblaze

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