Rafal Majka emerges from the chaos

The chaos of a break and then another break from the break and then a further break from the main bunch. So many groups, all moving at different speeds. So many potential ramifications that it’s all but impossible to to keep up.

And then order.

Only after the finish line can a bike race truly make sense. But bike racing isn’t about sense.

The main protagonist

With hindsight, Rafal Majka was the one to watch. King of the mountains by a single point, he pushed the pretender to the throne, Joaquim Rodriguez, to the side of the road (not literally) and extended his lead to a more comfortable 31 points with only one mountain stage to come.

He also won a second stage. The three-week Giro d’Italia appears to have made barely a dent in his energy reserves.

Podium pugilism

The scuffle for second and third place overall continues. Jean-Christophe Péraud was today’s big winner, positioning his nose over Vincenzo Nibali’s back wheel when others couldn’t follow. He’s fourth, but now only eight seconds behind Thibaut Pinot, who didn’t look as strong today.

I’m really warming to Peraud: a middle-aged nobody mixing it with more celebrated names. He gained time on Valverde as well. The Spaniard briefly promised to have a Richie Porte sort of day, but somehow found that most mystical of phenomenons, a second wind, and not only clawed his way back to Pinot, but also past him.

Laurens Ten Dam watch

Our adopted beardy man moved above Leopold Konig (literally, ‘King Leopold’) but dropped below his team-mate, Bauke Mollema, who got a head start on the final climb after being in the break. That break was a veritable who’s who of second-rate general classification contenders, incidentally. Mollema was joined in it by Pierre Rolland, Frank Schleck and of course the incomparable Jurgen Van Den Broeck.

Stage 18

It’s basically two of the classic Tour de France climbs – the Col du Tourmalet and then Hautacam – both of which are officially ‘beyond categorisation’. Here’s the profile.