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Polish pedal power: Rafal Majka proves King of the Mountains

Rafal Majka celebrates his second stage win of the 2014 Tour de France to cement his lead in the King of the Mountains competition.

Story highlights

  • Rafal Majka wins 17th stage of Tour de France
  • Second stage win of this year's race for young Pole
  • Cements lead in King of the Mountains competition
  • Vincenzo Nibali extends lead in battle for yellow jersey
When two-time winner Alberto Contador was forced to quit the Tour de France after a painful crash the outlook looked bleak for the Tinkoff-Saxo team but since his departure a new star has emerged in Polish rider Rafal Majka.
The 24-year-old was a last-minute inclusion in its squad for the Tour, but has seized his opportunity with both hands, claiming his second stage win Wednesday and the second in a row for Tinkoff-Saxo.
Like teammate Michael Rogers the day before, Majka proved the strongest of a breakaway group on the short but punishing 124.5 km stage from Saint-Gaudens to Pla d'Adet.
The points he gained on the climbs and at the finish saw him stretch his lead in the battle for the polka dot jersey of the King of the Mountains winner.
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Majka is one of a number of young riders making a big impression in the 2014 Tour, but it is still being led by Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, who finished third on stage 17, pulling away from his nearest rivals on the final climb.
Only France's Jean-Christophe Peraud was able to hold his wheel to improve his chances of finishing on the podium in Paris Sunday, holding fourth spot, but only eight seconds adrift of compatriot Thibaut Pinot.
Nibali has extended his advantage to five minutes 26 seconds over Movistar's Alejandro Valverde with one further tough stage in the Pyrenees to come ahead of Saturday's individual time trial.
With Contador and defending champion Chris Froome sidelined by earlier crashes, the Astana star has dominated the race and looked untroubled again on the penultimate stage in the mountains.
Majka, who finished sixth in this year's Giro D'Italia, first made his mark on the Tour in the Alps, winning at the Risoul ski station last Saturday in fine style, a major boost for his team after the loss of Contador to a broken shin on Bastille Day, July 4.
"Our team had bad luck in stage 10, but after that Bjarne (Rjiis) said that we needed to fight for a stage victory," he told the official Tour de France website.
"We didn't win one but three stages, and now with the polka dot jersey, I feel good. But there's still one hard stage to go, I will fight more because this jersey is really important for the team."
Thursday will see Nibali and the rest of the peloton tackle the feared climbs of the Tourmalet and Hautacam on a 145.5km leg from Pau.