Joining Bora-Hansgrohe for 2017 after six years with the Tinkoff organisation, Rafal Majka figures to be the top climber on a team that will suddenly have a wealth of WorldTour stage racing opportunities as it gets a bump to cycling's highest division.
The 27-year-old from Poland had initially planned to set his sights on the Giro d'Italia again next season after landing fifth there this year, but he told Cyclingnews from the Bora training camp in Valencia that he was shifting his focus. With a 'try everything' approach to his future, Majka now plans to make a run at the Tour de France GC instead, with a possible Vuelta start to follow.
"I want to try the Tour de France. I've never done GC in the Tour. I did it in the Giro and the Vuelta. In both, I've finished top five. Now I need to try doing the Tour because when you never try, you never know," Majka said.
"I won two times the polka dot jersey at the Tour de France. Now it will be a little bit bigger step for me and I'll try to be in the GC."
The Tour's reigning king of the mountains acknowledged the challenge of focusing on the yellow jersey given the dominance of Chris Froome (Sky), but figures he might as well see what he can achieve.
"For now we see that Froome, for us, is the best rider in the Tour de France for a few years," he said. "Right now I'm concentrated on a top five at the Tour. After, we need to see how I feel and maybe I'll try to win some stages at the Vuelta."
The altered focus will undoubtedly require some changes to his approach.
"We start the season a bit early. I want to be in a little bit better shape than last year at the start of the season, because then after I have a little bit of rest before the Tour," Majka said. "I am working a lot with our coach. We need to be the best during the season. But the season is not only the Tour de France. We have other races. There's also the Vuelta after. And I need to try everything."
The transition from a stage-hunting wild card invite to a WorldTour squad with multiple big names battling for top-level wins will be a significant one for Majka's new outfit. The Olympic bronze medalist believes the squad is prepared – or will be soon, at least – to contend for GC results in cycling's highest division.
"We have Leopold König, we have some German guys, very strong guys," he said. "We need a little bit of time, but I'm for sure ready for the GC. And not only the Tour de France but also other races like Tirreno and Catalunya. I'm here and I want to try the best for the team, and also for the points. We need to win races."
Having spent years beneath Alberto Contador in the GC pecking order at Tinkoff, Majka seems happy with his new role.
"It's a good opportunity for me, because if I go to another team, yeah, maybe I get some free chances but I need to also work for other riders. But here I am really free," he said. "Though for sure I have some racing where I will help my teammates like Peter and other guys."
Working for Peter Sagan is nothing new for Majka. He was teammates with the 26-year-old from Poland's southern neighbour Slovakia for two years at Tinkoff, and appears more than content that they'll be teammates again in the coming season.
"Me and Peter, we have a very good relationship. We support each other. For us, nothing changes," Majka said. "Peter will do the work. And for sure he's going to win another [green] jersey. And some stages it's Peter Sagan. He's the world champion. I concentrate on GC and for me it's better—when I have these guys for the flat stages, it's a little bit easier."
After getting his 2017 build-up underway in Valencia and then another training camp in Mallorca in January, Majka plans to race two days at the Mallorca Challenge, followed by a trip to Abu Dhabi. Then he'll focus on Tirreno-Adriatico, the Volta a Catalunya and potentially a few of the hillier Classics before beginning preparation for his Tour campaign.
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