Magnificent Majka climbs to Vuelta stage 14 win, Froome protects lead
Rafal Majka produced a stunning effort on the final climb to clinch victory on stage 14 of the Vuelta a Espana on Saturday as Chris Froome dropped four seconds to Vincenzo Nibali but maintained his healthy lead in the general classification.
Bora-Hansgrohe rider Majka was undaunted by the prospect of attacking the highest-category climb up the Sierra de la Pandera and broke clear in magnificent fashion to secure triumph.
Majka dropped Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal) in the final 10 kilometres of the 175km ride from Ecija and was able to make the break stick, with no meaningful response coming from the peloton.
Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana did launch a late attack to try to bridge the gap to Majka but still ended the stage 27 seconds down on the Pole.
Nibali and Alberto Contador had attempted to gain some time on Tour de France champion Froome on the final ascent but were not able to put any significant distance between themselves and the red jersey holder, Nibali visibly frustrated with what he believed to be a lack of effort from the Spaniard.
Nibali did gain four bonus seconds on Froome, but the Team Sky rider still heads the GC by 55 seconds from his Bahrain-Merida rival.
Earlier Davide Villella of Cannondale-Drapac furthered his stranglehold on the King of the Mountains jersey by reaching the summit of the Puerto El Mojon and Alto Valdepenas de Jaen first, but the day firmly belonged to Majka.
GOOD DAY/BAD DAY
Majka's performance was another demonstration of the climbing ability that saw him win the King of the Mountains Classification at the Tour de France in 2014 and 2016.
Villella is heavy favourite to win the KOM jersey in the Vuelta, though, the Italian now has 49 points, 21 more than Majka in second.
Fabio Aru, meanwhile, endured a miserable race as the 2015 red jersey winner finished one minute and three seconds off the pace and appeared in evident discomfort on the final climb.
1. Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) 4:42:10
2. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +00:27
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) +00:31
4. Chris Froome (Team Sky)
5. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 58:30:47
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) +00:55
3. Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) +02:17
1. Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) 103 pts
2. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 98 pts
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) 79 pts
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
1. Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac) 49 pts
2. Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) 28 pts
3. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) 27 pts
It's another gruelling mountain stage with a 129.4km ride from Alcalá la Real to Alto Hoya de la Mora, Sierra Nevada. It features two category one climbs before finishing with a highest-category 19.3km ascent.