Polish rider Rafal Majka made it back-to-back stage wins for Tinkoff-Saxo as he took Stage 17 of the 2014 Tour de France.
On a tough climbing day, he beat Movistar's Giovanni Visconti into second with Vincenzo Nibali in the yellow jersey claiming an impressive third to extend his lead in the general classification.
The second of three days in the Pyrenees, and after Tuesday's longest stage, Wednesday saw the shortest road stage of the Tour at 125 kilometres, starting from Saint-Gaudens.
|Tour de France 2014: Stage 17 Results|
|1||Rafal Majka||Poland||Tinkoff - Saxo||3:35:23|
|5||Alessandro De Marchi||Italy||Cannondale||+49|
|9||Nicolas Roche||Ireland||Tinkoff - Saxo||+1:25|
However, Stage 17's four tough climbs in a short time made for one of the most challenging days of the three weeks.
A couple of early breaks were made in the stage but not by anyone fighting for a podium place, and Nibali stayed safely with the peloton.
The race for the King of the Mountains polka-dot jersey saw great competition as Majka—holding it before the start of the stage—was challenged by second-placed Joaquim Rodriguez who won the chase to the top of the first peak, Col du Portillon.
Team Sky's Vasil Kiryienka broke on his own at the beginning of the second ascent—of Col de Peyresourde—and he managed to hold a lead impressively until he was caught just before the peak of Col de Val Louron-Azet, the third summit, again reached first by Rodriguez.
|Tour de France 2014: Polka-dot Jersey|
|1||Rafal Majka||Poland||Tinkoff - Saxo||149|
However, the Spaniard was dropped eventually and the race for the stage win hotted up for the final ascent to Pla d'Adet.
Visconti made the initial attack from the breakaway group but was eventually caught by Majka after stellar work from his Tinkoff-Saxo teammate Nicolas Roche, who dropped from the lead to haul along his man.
Attacks continued behind, including by Nibali going with Thibaut Pinot as second-placed general classification rider Alejandro Valverde failed to respond.
|Tour de France 2014: General Classification|
|6||Tejay van Garderen||United States||BMC Racing||+10:19|
|8||Laurens ten Dam||Netherlands||Belkin||+12:16|
|9||Leopold Konig||Czech Republic||NetApp||+12:40|
Nibali showed his class and pace and hammered his way towards the leader, but a very confident Majka attacked as the finish approached, leaving Visconti in his dust, and claimed the stage comfortably, his second of the 2014 Tour.
Talking to ITV4 after his triumph, via Lawrence Barretto on BBC Sport, Majka expressed his gratitude to his team:
Thank you for my team. Also Nicolas [Roche] did a great job today. I'm really happy to go in the front, pass everybody and win the stage. Yesterday I went easy, now I have the polka dot jersey and I want to keep it until Paris.
Stage 18 on Thursday sees the last of the Pyrenees for 144.5 kilometres of riding and the scaling of two significant peaks and another summit finish.
Nibali looks in great control and effectively has the yellow jersey wrapped up, while Majka has given himself a wonderful chance of wearing the polka-dot jersey in Paris on Sunday.