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Majka joins UAE Team Emirates as 'wing-man' for Pogacar

Giro d'Italia 2020 - 103th Edition - 15th stage Base Area Rivolto (Frecce Tricolori) - Piancavallo 185 km - 18/10/2020 - - photo Roberto Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2020
Majka on Sunday's summit finish at the Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Rafal Majka has signed a two-year contract with UAE Team Emirates, where he will form part of the support unit being built around Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar. 

The 31-year-old Polish climber is currently sixth overall at the Giro d'Italia but, after leading Bora-Hansgrohe's Grand Tour ambitions for the past four years, appears set to move into more of a domestique role.

Pogačar won the Tour de France this year at the age of 21 and UAE Team Emirates, who have made a number of young signings in the past couple of years, are keen to strengthen their Grand Tour squad for 2021. 

"With Rafal, our group of climbers is getting a strong boost," said team manager Mauro Gianetti. "We are sure that in addition to being a solid wing-man for Tadej Pogačar, he will also be able to target his personal ambitions and be given some freedom."

Majka turned pro with the Saxo Bank team in 2011 and broke through at the 2014 Tour de France, where he won two stages and the polka-dot jersey, followed by overall victory at the Tour de Pologne. 

In 2015 he won another Tour stage and finished third at the Vuelta a España, going on to win the bronze medal at the Olympic Games road race in 2016. 

He joined Bora-Hansgrohe in 2017, winning stages at the Vuelta and Tour of California, along with the overall at the Tour of Slovenia. He has not won a race since, and endured a disappointing 2018 season, but bounced back in 2019 to finish sixth at both the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España. 

"I am very happy to have been given this opportunity at this point in my career," Majka said. 

"I will work for Pogačar when necessary, but I will also try to carve out chances for myself when I can. Which? Races like Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour de Suisse and also the Vuelta a Espana, where I usually find good form. In that sense I’m not your typical Polish rider : I love the heat."

Majka is UAE Team Emirates' second signing for 2021, following Matteo Trentin from CCC Team. They are saying goodbye to sprinter and Classics rider Jasper Philippsen, who's off to Alpecin-Fenix, as well as Swiss rouleur Tom Bohli, who's moving to Cofidis. 

Bora-Hansgrohe already have a replacement for Majka in Wilco Kelderman, who's joining from Team Sunweb, while the German team have also signed Nils Politt from Israel Start-Up Nation as well as five neo-pros.