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Nibali increases Tour lead in Stage 17

Saint-Lary Pla d'Adet, France (SportsNetwork.com) - Vincenzo Nibali of Italy increased his overall lead at the Tour de France on Wednesday with a strong third-place finish in Stage 17.

Poland's Rafal Majka won the stage, a short and grueling 124.5-kilometer mountain trek through the Pyrenees, finishing atop the Pla d'Adet in a time of 3 hours, 35 minutes and 23 seconds. It was his second stage win of the 2014 Tour, as he captured Stage 14 last week in the Alps.

Italy's Giovanni Visconti was 29 seconds behind in second place, while Nibali made a move to distance himself from his nearest competitors in the overall classification with an attack near the conclusion on the highest category climb. He finished third for the stage -- 46 seconds behind the winner.

Nibali started the day 4 minutes and 37 seconds in front of Alejandro Valverde and now owns an advantage of 5:26 over the Spaniard, who was another 49 seconds behind the winner in 10th on Wednesday.

"I've got a nice lead, but considering (Thursday's) stage to Hautacam and the time trial, I preferred to go and gain a few more seconds and be even more serene, just in case something would happen," Nibali said about why he decided to attack rather than remain with the other top riders.

Frenchmen Thibaut Pinot, Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet occupy the next three places. Pinot, who was 11th on Wednesday, is six minutes behind Nibali, while Peraud finished alongside Nibali on Wednesday and remains another eight seconds behind. Bardet is 7:34 off the pace after placing 12th on Wednesday.

American Tejay Van Garderen is still sixth overall after finishing alongside Pino and Bardet on Wednesday.

A trio of Category 1 climbs preceded the highest category finish on Wednesday, the shortest non-time trial stage of the 2014 Tour.

Heading up the final ascent of the Pla d'Adet were four riders, including Visconti, who left the group with about nine kilometers remaining. Majka, though, caught him with four kilometers left and the two stayed together until the Polish rider took off with about 2 1/2 kilometers to go and was not caught.

"I'm just so happy about this result and the results that we have accomplished in the last couple of days," said Majka, who owns the polka dot jersey as the leader in the mountains classification.

Nibali had the yellow jersey group a few minutes behind the lead pack at the start of the final ascent, but Peraud pulled away and only the yellow jersey was able to keep up, leaving Valverde with a struggle to maintain his second overall position.

"I was able to recover my rhythm and to limit the damage with Nibali and Peraud," said Valverde. "It's true that I have close rivals in Pinot and Peraud, but Peraud is the one I fear the most because he's very good in time trials."

Stage 18 on Thursday is the last of three days in the Pyrenees and the 145.5 kilometers from Pau to Hautacam features two climbs of the highest category -- the first up the Col du Tourmalet before a finish at the top of the Hautacam.

07/23 13:12:10 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
CAR 24
DET 7
Final
TOR 5
TAM 6
Final
DET 6
CLE 4
Final
NYM 0
WAS 3
Final
PIT 7
CHC 3
Final
PHI 4
MIA 5
 
Final
KAN 4
BOS 8
Final
MIL 9
CIN 2
Final
CWS 4
MIN 6
Final
STL 4
COL 1
Final
TEX 10
ATL 3
Final
ANA 1
HOU 6
Final
SFG 2
LOS 4
Final
SEA 0
OAK 4
Final
ARI 8
SDP 6
7th
BAL 1
NYY 1
 
Final
NYG 14
ARI 25
Final
CIN 24
ATL 10
Final
TEN 10
DAL 26
Final
CAR 24
DET 7
Final
WAS 41
JAC 10
Final
BUF 29
MIA 10
Final
MIN 7
NEP 30
Final
CLE 26
NOS 24
Final
SDC 30
SEA 21
Final
TAM 17
STL 19
Final
OAK 14
HOU 30
Final
DEN 24
KAN 17
Final
GBP 31
NYJ 24
2nd
SFX 17
CHI 0