Majka poised for GC showdown in Oman

Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) solidified his place at the Tour of Oman Wednesday with a seventh-place finish during the stage 2 finale, moving into 11th overall before the Green Mountain stage on Friday.

Majka is just six seconds behind general classification rival Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who sits second overall after coming in as runner-up behind Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing).

Two steep uphills in the closing kilometres sparked multiple attacks and a blistering pace that whittled the final front group down to just 19 riders that finished 50 seconds ahead of the field. Tinkoff's Peter Sagan was fifth on the stage. GC contenders Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Team Katusha) lost time to the leaders.

“It was tough finish,” said Tinkoff director Sean Yates. “The peloton caught the breakaway in the absolute finale after hammering over the first of the two finishing climbs. It really put a large part of the field under severe pressure, and the peloton was split on the second climb as the favorites started attacking. Peter and Rafal received great support from the team and did what they had to in following these attacks.”

Yates said he was especially pleased with Majka's performance. “It’s his second day of racing in 2015, which shows how well he has prepared. It’s important for the overall classification as several GC favorites were dropped today.”

Majka came to his first race of the season from a team training camp in Tenerife after riding throughout the winter on his home roads in Poland. He said the camps focused on building a strong base for the season, and the early preparation appears to have paid off in Oman.

“I feel good and I'm confident at the moment, and I especially look forward to the mountain stage,” he said.

While Majka was happy with his general classification position heading into the mountain stage on Friday, Yates said Sagan was not satisfied with is fifth-place finish in an uphill sprint that normally would suit his skills.

“I believe it’s time to give him a short respite from having to compete for stage wins on every single stage to let him recuperate properly after his crash in Qatar,” the director said. “We have an ambitious setup in 2015 and we want the wins, but we must take a bit of pressure off his shoulders.”

Yates said the team would “take it easy” during Thursday's third stage, which is likely one for the sprinters, and focus instead on Friday's run to the top of Green Mountain.

“On Friday we have the real deal up the slopes of Green Mountain, where Rafal will come to the fore to really test himself against strong competitors such as Valverde, van Garderen and Arredondo after having distanced Nibali, Rodriguez and several other big names in the GC. Rafal is motivated, and I think it will be a very exciting stage,” Yates said.

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