After two storming rides in the mountain stages of the Tour of California, Rafal Majka started the decisive stage 6 Big Bear time trial with the yellow jersey on his shoulders. In 2014 at the Tour de Pologne, Majka started the final day time trial in yellow and held on to seal his first stage race victory. California, though, wasn't as kind as his home race, with the Bora-hansgrohe rider suffering a 41 second turn around in the overall classification to slip from first to second.
"My legs were not perfect today. I tried everything and pushed as hard as I could, but it was my first ITT of the year, and it just feels different. I still need to do more training on my TT bike because I want to win these races," said Majka, who was 94th in the Tirreno-Adriatico stage 7 time trial.
"Today, to be honest, I am a little bit disappointed because I wanted to keep the yellow jersey. Still second place in the GC is a good result."
While the performance wasn't what Majka was aiming for, the result of 22nd place was his best in a time trial since his 10th place on stage 15 of the 2016 Giro d'Italia.
With Polish time trial champion Maciej Bodnar and Peter Sagan posting top-10 times on the course well in advance of Majka, their times could not be replicated by the two-time Tour de France KOM winner, with sports director Paxti Vila suggesting Majka needs to spend more time on the TT bike.
"Rafał's performance was good again today. He found a good rhythm and could hold onto his pace until the finish," said Vila. "I think the adjustments we made to his position on the bike will pay off, but he needs to get used to it even more."
Starting the seventh and final stage in second place overall, Majka will need to be wary of Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac), as the American is just one second off his place. BMC's Brent Bookwalter in fourth place at 10 seconds also poses a threat to the podium position of Majka, who will be hoping teammate Sagan can hoover up the important bonus seconds on offer in Fort Tejon, Clear Creek and the finish line in Pasadena.
Should Majka and Bora hold off the challenges, second place would represent his best GC result since the 2014 Tour de Pologne. It would also his best result on American soil and hold him in good stead ahead of his primary season goal, top-five at the Tour de France.