Chris Froome
Froome stays ahead of his general classification rivals heading into the second half of the race. Getty Images

Chris Froome maintained his iron grip on the Tour de France as Poland's Rafal Majka won stage 11 on 15 July.

The 2013 champ's Team Sky team-mates paced him over the five punishing climbs before the finish at the Cote de Cauterets.

Froome finished ninth on the day, five minutes 21 seconds down on Majka but in the same time as all of his Tour rivals.

The Nairobi-born rider still leads by two minutes 52 seconds from American Tejay van Garderen with Colombia's Nairo Quintana 17 seconds further back.

If Froome was expecting any counter-attacks after his blistering win on the first mountain test, none came.

Froome looked controlled as the riders took the two major climbs - the Col d'Aspin and Col du Tourmalet - having allowed a seven-man group to break clear.

But it was another disappointing day for defending champ Vincenzo Nibali who lost seconds after slipping off the yellow jersey group a couple of miles from the finish.

The Italian, whose defence had been all-but ended on the climb to La Pierre Saint-Martin, is now almost eight minutes adrift.

Majka won two stages with solo attacks on last year's Tour to become the first Polish rider to win the polka dot jersey of King of the Mountains.

And the Tinkoff-Saxo rider repeated the feat after attacking from a seven-man breakaway to claim his third stage win.

Majka, 25, took the stage after just over five hours in the saddle on another blisteringly hot day in the mountains.

Ireland's Dan Martin claimed claimed second place on a stage for the second time this Tour after coming home a minute down on Majka.

Froome faces one more day in the Pyrenees on Thursday with another tough summit finish at Plateau de Beille.

And Froome, 30, said: "I'm in a great position at the moment. I can guarantee it was a really tough day today and I think there's quite a big battle going on at the moment, especially for all the GC positions.

"I think we can definitely expect there to be a big battle out there tomorrow.

"I don't need to be going and attacking. It makes sense just to follow the guys putting me under pressure at the moment.

"Tomorrow is one of the stages. It's going to be a very decisive stage. Today we tried to save as much energy as possible

"But those first 75km were hard, a lot of guys wanted to get in that breakaway today.

"A lot of guys spent a lot of energy out there today and tomorrow's going to be an even more decisive stage, I think."

Birmingham-born Martin, 28, said: "To bridge across the group and still get second - I'm very proud of that ride today.

"My legs are obviously good so we will just keep trying. Second's good, but but if I can get the win it will be even sweeter."

Majka's victory brought some relief to a team that has seen Alberto Contador's Tour hopes disappear and Ivan Basso forced to quit to have cancer treatment.

And Majka said: "I knew this stage would be hard but I like this weather when it is warm and today I had a positive opportunity.

"I am so happy and this victory is for my team-mates and Ivan Basso."