Leaving France and heading home after Paris-Nice, Rafal Majka was happy to leave all the media attention to his younger countryman and race runner-up Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step). The Tinkoff-Saxo rider failed to play a part in the “race to the sun”, his first goal of the season, and was unable to offer much explanation.
The team comes to the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya with a lot of pressure on their backs. Owner Oleg Tinkov has openly complained about the riders’ performance not matching his expectations and their salaries. Tinkov has even gone so far as to suspend Bjarne Riis from his role as lead directeur sportif, and it remains unclear who might take over from experienced Dane.
When asked about Tinkov’s comments about the pressure riders need be placed under, Majka was measured in his reply. “In every team wins count, so Mr Tinkov's position isn’t surprising. I do my best to achieve the goals during races. The pressure is always high, but I wouldn’t say it's discouraging. Sometimes it helps to mobilize and helps you give it 110%,” he said to rowery.org.
After his breakout 2014 season which included two Tour de France stage wins and the overall Tour of Poland, the 25-year-old came into the season with high hopes. He had a solid start of the year, finishing 4th on the slopes of Green Mountain and placing just outside the final podium in the general classification, but his form slumped at Paris-Nice, and left him with empty hands after first European WorldTour race of the year.
“After Tour of Oman my numbers were really good. But then I did a hard training block and I couldn’t rest properly before Paris-Nice,” Majka said.
In France Majka struggled at the prologue, finishing 36 seconds down on victorious Kwiatkowski. With clear lack of shape and two unfortunate punctures before Croix de Chaubouret on stage 4 the race was gone for him halfway to Nice. The young Pole is, however, far from looking for excuses.
“I lacked freshness, my shape was far from optimal. I can't blame bad luck for that, I just didn't have the legs. But that's gone now, I'm focused on the next races," the climber from Zegartowice said ahead of Volta a Catalunya where he joins forces with Alberto Contador.
The racing in Catalunya kicked off yesterday with Poland’s Maciej Paterski surging to first WorldTour victory for CCC Sprandi Polkowice and breakaway trio including two climbers – Bart de Clercq (Lotto Soudal) and Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar) – gaining ground on race’s favorites. Majka finished in the peloton and with only one mountain top finish looming on the horizon, he will be looking to support Contador in the battle on La Molina.
We’re riding for Alberto and I’ll be supporting him on the climbs. After Paris-Nice I wasn’t training hard, I took it easy – together with Bobby [Julich] we thought it's going to be the best for me to get in the right shape,” Majka explained two days before the race.
Majka is skipping the Giro d’Italia and focusing on Tour de France this year. He then aims for the Vuelta a España as his personal goal and is ready to support Contador’s bid for Giro-Tour double glory in July.
“The Tour is my top priority this year. We‘ll be doing everything to help Alberto win the race. That’s our team goal. I’m happy to be his last man in the mountains and work for his success."