Rafal Majka Some Rafal Majka magic today…  First though it was a 04:40 start en route Prestwick Airport, Ryanair, Carcassone, searing heat, the chirping of the crickets and le Tour – live.

No more Carlton witterings on Eurosport, fighting the tourists up the High Street to get to L’Équipe – maybe, and from two days ago…

But I digress, what of yesterday?

Alberto Contador’s withdrawal was a huge shock to the Tinkoff team and immediately after it Michael Rogers said;

“It’s the first stage without Alberto, and the sadness is not just something we can leave at the rest day hotel. But we have a strong team and we’re all in a good condition.

“So we’ll be setting new goals and ambitions and shift our focus to taking home stage wins”

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Rafa Majka made good on yesterday’s promise. Photo©B.Bade/ASO

The team’s road captain was true to his word and his boy Rafa Majka brought home the goods in fine style on Stage 14 after a near miss on Stage 13. Majka stated after crossing the finish line on top of the HC-climb to Risoul;

“This win is for my teammates and for Alberto, because I know how hard it has been for us all.

“But today we showed that we weren’t going to give up. I think that we’ve been very active during the last four stages and it all paid off today.”

You could tell it was Majka’s first pro win, instead of a nice ‘Tinkoff’ logo we were treated to old Rafa’s ‘peelay walay’ bare chest framed by a flapping maillot – no doubt Bjarne will ‘have a word.’

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Vincenzo Nibali looks like he’s riding at 80%. Photo©B.Bade/ASO

Vincenzo could have ridden him down, I’m sure – but there was no reason to; he did enough to knock any daft notions from the minds of the others that they might have a chance of clawing back some time.

I’ve said it before but it’s so good to see the French teams doing the business. Yesterday it was AG2R; they have two men in the top 10 with Peraud and Bardet – the latter has been very impressive.

He’s not content to defend a top six position, he definitely wants on that podium; as does Pinot – 17 years is a long time to wait on a Frenchman waving to crowd from on high in Gay Paris.

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Romain Bardet is taking things in his stride, but really sees himself on the podium. Photo©B.Bade/ASO
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Pinot is one of the Frenchmen in form with a great chance of a top five placing. Photo©B.Bade/ASO

Tricky Dicky was that soldier, so as our pal Dave says; ‘the less said about that result, the better !

The French may be on the up but it’s over for Belgium’s GC hope Jurgen Van Den Broeck, his Dauphine ride, like Talansky’s, flattered to deceive.

And on the subject of said less than chatty big Belgian, we have some tasty gossip from the Flatlands from our man, Ivan.

“Re. Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Jakob Fuglsang; JF said JVDB caused his crash then went on to say that Alberto Contador had warned him about JVDB, saying that he was a danger on the roads.

“None of this has been in CyclingNews; maybe that’s how Wee Bert fell while trying to pass JVDB on that descent ie. he took a chance because he did not want to be on JVDB’s wheel?

“Anyway, JVDB is making a pig’s ear of this Tour, complaining about not have super legs.”

So now you know.

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The break passes. Photo©B.Bade/ASO

On the subject of Fuglsang, crash or not he was back doing the job well for the Capo again, yesterday – so too were Kangert and Scarponi.

But like we said t’other day, in a believable way, not like some teams from the past we could mention…

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Valverde is measuring his efforts well heading into the last week, but can he hold onto a podium place? Photo©B.Bade/ASO

Valverde didn’t have the best day, in the Movistar press release he had this to say;

“It’s true that I’m still in second place, but it was hard today. In a swerve with three K or 3.5 k to go, Pinot accidentally touched my gear with his front wheel. It didn’t work well, it was jumping from one ring to another and I had to climb on a big gear, I was super stuck.

“It wasn’t a specially bad day for me, but not good either – still, we got over it with not much damage. Nibali is clearly the strongest, but all the rest of us are very close to each other. I took some time yesterday and they did the same with me today; that’s cycling.

“We must carry on – there’s still a lot left and we’re still here.”

On the events of today I foresee the two young Frenchman forcing Alejandro off the podium.

But it’s also easy to imagine the rake thin Bardet losing lots of time in that final 54 K chrono.

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Riblon to the fore, with Taaramae and Thomas. Photo©B.Bade/ASO

We tracked down L’Équipe on Saturday – on the cover is a glorious picture of Gallopin taking his stage win.

I didn’t manage to get the paper for the day Greipel won but I’ll wager it was a postage stamp-sized pic.

Who cares about Germans winning stages? The French public want handsome home boys winning – and why not?

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Nibali won’t be shaken on the descents, try as some of his rivals might. Photo©B.Bade/ASO

And on the subject of home boys – ‘respect’ to Bretagne-Seche, in the breaks, fighting and ‘honouring the race.

Final word on Stage 14 to Belkin’s Laurens Ten Dam – who rode a good stage – “it’s a hell of a Tour!

For sure, Laurens, for sure.

A demain.