Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) says that he won’t accept anything less than a podium when he rides at the Giro d’Italia later this year. The Polish rider showed himself as a potential Grand Tour contender in his previous two appearances at the Italian race in 2013 and 2014 when he took top-10 finishes in both.
Majka has since gone on to claim his first Grand Tour podium at last year’s Vuelta a Espana, taking third on the final mountain stage, and now he has set his sights higher.
“When I did the Vuelta, my first objective was to make the top five but after when I made the podium I was so happy,” he explained to Cyclingnews. “The Giro is a really hard race. I’ve done it twice and I’ve finished sixth and seventh. This year I will be fighting against some big riders but I’m happy to be going there and for sure the objective is not for the first five, I need to be fighting for the podium.
“I will try my best to be in good condition, but it is also important to try and avoid losing time because of crashes or mechanical problems. This is really important. I think that riders have to be in good shape but they also have to have some luck.”
Since his Vuelta a Espana podium, Majka has had a busy off-season, spending only two weeks at home in Poland over the Christmas period. He’s spent a lot of time between Gran Canaria and Calpe, where he was earlier this month. During that time, he has been doing more in the gym and working with Tinkoff directeur sportif Paxti Vila.
In preparation for his tilt at the Giro d’Italia, Majka has begun his season a little earlier than normal with the Tour de San Luis. Aside from being blown off his bike in the extremely windy stage 6, he managed to stay out of trouble and pulled out a solid result of seventh overall in the general classification.
“This is a good start to the season. It’s still a long way out to the Giro d’Italia but I’m happy. Now my condition is getting better, and I think that every month it gets better,” Majka said.
Majka will head to Rio with his teammate Peter Sagan to recon the Olympic road race course, After that he will take a short break when he gets back from Argentina before going to Spain again for a high-altitude training camp. The next race on his calendar will be the Ruta del Sol on February 17 but after that is still unknown. What is known is that he will ride in support of his teammate Alberto Contador at the Tour de France. He will then likely end his season in Colorado at the USA Pro Challenge.
“It is a busy schedule but after the Giro I will have some rest,” Majka explained. “I think in the first days of the Tour I will be dropped for sure because it is not easy to do the Giro and the Tour. For sure, in the last weeks, I want to be up there at the front to help Alberto win the Tour de France.”
Majka has been teammates with Contador since they both joined the team in 2011. The 26-year-old has ridden in support of Contador several times since then and was one of those who helped him to victory at the 2012 Vuelta a Espana.
“He’s a good rider, and he’s a really good captain of the team. He’s got a lot of experience, and we need to learn from him how to win races,” Majka said of Contador.
On the bike, Majka is a gregarious character who likes throwing bold attacks up the road and sometimes playing with the camera, as he did en-route to one of his two Tour de France victories in 2014. Off the bike Majka is a softly spoken and shy character, and he became a little flustered when Cyclingnews asks him if he will assume Contador’s role as the team’s leader. Contador is set to retire at the end of the season after 14 years as a professional.
“For me, I don’t know really. I’m still too young. It’s not a question for me,” he said. “Alberto is Alberto, and I am me, and we are different people. Alberto is a really good rider and a huge talent.”
Majka might be shy about it but 2016 could be the changing of the guard with many big names set to retire, and the Polish rider may be one of those to pick up the baton.