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Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Pole sounds defiant note after Montecampione stage
"I don’t know how much I gained on [Cadel] Evans or what I lost to [Nairo] Quintana," Majka told Cyclingnews, as he rolled away from the finish area and towards a Tinkoff-Saxo team car parked further down the slope.
Half an hour earlier, Majka had crossed the line in 6th place on the stage, 57 seconds down on stage winner Fabio Aru (Astana), 35 seconds behind Nairo Quintana and 15 seconds off of pink jersey Rigoberto Uran, but 16 seconds ahead of Evans.
"Yeah? That’s not bad, so," Majka said on learning of the time won and lost. "And there’s still a long way to go."
The Pole had signalled his confidence by setting teammate Michael Rogers to work on the front at the base of the long, searing climb to Montecampione, and the Australian's labours duly burned the pink jersey group down to fewer than a dozen riders with six kilometres remaining.
"“He was very good and I'm really very happy with the work he did for me on the climb," Majka said. "I like a good tempo like that on the final climb."
When accelerations from Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) signalled the beginning of real hostilities with four kilometres to go, however, Majka began to struggle. Prominent towards the head of the group up to that point, the white jersey slid out of the picture thereafter.
"The problem was that there were some accelerations that I didn't really like, but it’'s ok all the same," Majka said. "And I found my rhythm a bit near the summit, too."
Indeed, on the final ramps towards the line, Majka managed to peg back part of his deficit to Uran and also put a little distance into Evans. He retains his third place on general classification, albeit now 1:50 behind Uran, but moves to within 47 seconds of Evans.
Behind him, however, the margins are also tightening. Aru's pugnacious win means that he is now just 34 seconds off Majka, while Quintana is only a further 16 seconds back and is steadily feeling his way back to full health. Both men are also contenders for the best young rider classification.
"There's still a long way to go," Majka said. “I lost 50 seconds today but it's not a problem because there’s a long way to go and we've got four very tough days coming up. I'm not worried."
After the Giro’'s final rest day on Monday comes the race's tappone, over the Gavia and Stelvio to Val Martello, though it remains to be seen if the weather conditions will allow the stage to be ridden in its entirety. Heavy snow saw the exact same stage cancelled altogether last year, but Majka – whose team have placed notable faith in his ability to last the pace in the final week – is hopeful that there will be no alterations this time around.
"For me, it's better for me if we do the Stelvio, because things are a lot different when you do a lot of climbs in succession rather than just one climb to the finish," he said. "People talk about the summit finishes, but it's going to be a different story on Tuesday when there are three tough climbs during the stage."