Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) has confirmed that he will once again target the Tour de France next season. Speaking after the team presentation in Germany earlier this week, Majka said that he is aiming for a career-best finish with a top-five placing.
Majka targeted the Tour de France's general classification this season, but it ended abruptly when he crashed heavily on stage 9. The Bora-Hansgrohe rider came down on the descent of the Col de la Biche, the same stretch of road that took out Geraint Thomas and Alberto Contador. Unlike Thomas, Majka was able to finish the stage but the injuries proved too much and he pulled out on the rest day. With some better fortune, he believes he can really take on the Tour's GC.
"The team informed me that I will be a leader in Tour. I would like to avoid bad luck," Majka told Polish website Naszosie.pl. "If everything goes well, I am not worried about my form, because I know that I can prepare well. I hope that if the previous season was unlucky, the next one will be much better. This year I was well prepared for Tour - I'm not saying that I could fight for the win, but for the top-five for sure."
The Tour de France organisers unveiled a very different route to previous years with an opening week that could trip up a lot of riders. Majka accepts that it is a trickier prospect than this season's offering but he has faith in his team and will spend time looking at the cobbled stage early in the season.
"For sure it is more difficult than it was this year. For sure there will also be a selection on the stage with paved sections. However, we have a strong team, so it should be good," explained Majka. "I plan to make a reconnaissance of the route of all paved sections after Tirreno-Adriatico. We will train there with the whole team. We were promised this because Peter [Sagan] will want to win the stage there and I will have to be in front."
Crashing out and coming back
Majka has proved himself as a serious general classification contender with four top-10 placings in Grand Tours, including a top-five at the Giro d'Italia and third at the 2015 Vuelta a Espana. His relationship with the Tour de France has been a little more complicated with 27th at last year's race his best ever overall finish. Away from the GC, Majka has taken two mountains classification wins and three individual stages. This year was supposed to be his first genuine attempt at the general classification until his own error put him out of the race.
"It was wet and just my back wheel slipped," said Majka. "It was my fault because I was pushing myself unnecessarily. But after all, every cyclist happens to be on the road. I know that several other riders also fallen because of me, but it happens like this. I also had an accident that was not my fault and I did not blame anyone."
Majka's method of departure from the Tour de France had a lasting effect on him and, while he was able to race the Vuelta a Espana and win a stage, he was forced to miss the World Championships because of pain in his back. There is still some pain, but he has been working on his muscle strength and he is feeling much better.
"I feel, but the pain is smaller. I work on this in the gym and with a rehabilitator," he said. "At the end of the season, I rested for a month from the bicycle, but at that time I was strengthening the spine. In general, I can say that I feel good."
Following the team presentation, the riders and staff at Bora-Hansgrohe headed to Majorca for the final team training camp of 2017. Majka will be back there after a break for Christmas, before he kick-starts his season at the Vuelta a San Juan. Another training camp will follow in the Sierra Nevada, ahead of the Abu Dhabi Tour in February. He returns to Europe with Tirreno-Adriatico, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and then adds his fourth continent of the season with a trip to the Tour of California. The Tour of Slovenia will be his last major stage race before the Tour de France, but he also has the national championships pencilled in.
At present, everything is geared towards the Tour and anything else will have to wait until that is done before Majka figures out how he will approach the second half of the year.
"I would like to follow the same path because it was effective," Majka said. "We will see how I feel about the Vuelta afterwards, but somewhere in the back of my head, due to the demanding route, I also have the World Championships in mind. In spite of everything, my goal is not just the World Championships, nor Vuelta, but the Tour de France. What will happen later, we'll see."