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July 15, 2015 – Rafal Majka dedicated his Tour de France stage 11 victory on Wednesday to teammate Ivan Basso after the Italian was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Basso, 37, had to leave the Tour on Monday’s rest day after discovering he had testicular cancer but underwent successful surgery on Wednesday while Majka was riding to victory on the 188km stage from Pau to Cauterets.
“Tutto bene!” was the news from Basso on Twitter — everything’s fine — following his operation but there was more bad news for Tinkoff-Saxo as another Italian, Daniele Bennati, crashed out of the race. “I dedicate it to my teammates, firstly for Ivan because it’s not easy to pull out when you’re ill, also for Daniele because he crashed today, and for my wife and family, and for my sports director for always believing in me,” said Majka, 25.
The Pole won the polkadot king of the mountains jersey last year after winning two high mountain stages — one each in the Alps and Pyrenees — but he said that’s not on his radar this time as his main aim is to support team leader Alberto Contador.
“I wanted to stay with Alberto today but when (the pace in the peloton) started going very hard I tried to get into the breakaway,” he said.
“I felt pretty good so my sports director said go for it and I felt really good on the climbs.” Majka finished a minute ahead of Ireland’s Dan Martin, who initially didn’t make it into the seven-man breakaway. But he counter-attacked on his own and made up a 3min 45sec deficit to the break.
However he could not initially respond to Majka’s attack on the massive hors category Tourmalet ascent but came back strongly on the final modest Cote de Cauterets climb, dropping German Emmanuel Buchmann and passing Belgian Serge Pauwels to take second. “It felt like the right time to go,” he said of his late counter-attack.
“I know the Col d’Aspin and Tourmalet and I felt it was the right time to go. There was a decent enough gap but I had a chance of bridging. “I didn’t have the legs to follow Majka but once I got over the Tourmalet I found my legs again and managed to come back to the group. “I’m happy with second.”
For the second day in a row temperatures soared well over 30 degrees Celsius and many riders suffered once again. But it was otherwise a relatively calm day in the saddle for the leading contenders.
“It went pretty smooth, the breakaway was pretty hard, it took almost two hours to establish and then seven guys went up the road,” said American Tejay Van Garderen, sitting second overall at 2min 52sec behind Chris Froome. Astana were a little aggressive on the Tourmalet but all in all it was a good day. I’m good, I feel like I’m handling the heat much better than yesterday. Things are progressing nicely.”
Two-time former champion Contador, currently sixth overall at 4min 04sec, said he’s just trying to recover from each day’s exertions.
“My legs are working, which is no small thing, but I know that the Pyrenees are going to be difficult for me, I need to think further forward (to the Alps),” he said. “We’re suffering the Spanish heat, there’s a lot of humidity and it’s affecting my breathing.”
As for the race leader, the 32-year-old Spaniard didn’t sound confident in his chances of overall victory. “Froome is better than the others. Perhaps from a tactical point of view we can do something but for sure he’s stronger than us right now,” said Contador.
Nairo Quintana, third overall at 3min 09sec, vowed to attack on Thursday’s 12th stage with it’s four categorised climbs building up from a second category to two firsts and then the hors category summit finish at Plateau de Beille. “What’s certain is that we’re going to try something because we came here to chase the yellow jersey dream and we’re working hard to realise that,” said the 25-year-old Colombian leader of the Movistar team.