Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) will start the final time trial at the Tour of Poland on Saturday with a narrow lead of just 18 seconds on Benat Intxausti and 22 seconds on Ion Izagirre, both from the Movistar team. The final stage is on flat 25km course in the centre of Krakow.
“The gap is not big enough to make sure I will win the GC. Izagirre is clearly very strong in time trials,” the Polish rider admitted after Friday's stage, where he took the lead overall and his second stage victory in a row.
Movistar's directeur sportif Jose Luis Jaimerena agreed that the ultimate battle will be close. “The gap is already pretty big but the time trial can turn table,” he confidently told Cyclingnews.
The Spanish team can also count on Intxausti, who is second overall. The two riders are evenly matched in time trials. Izagirre took silver, while Intxausti was sixth in the Spanish time trial championships in June.
“They are not experts in time trials but they can do well," Jaimerena said, adding with a smile: “Of course we would be more confident if they could ride as fast as Adriano Malori!”
The Italian rouleur is the big favourite for the stage victory at the Tour of Poland after he won similar stages at the Tour of San Luis and Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this year.
The list of contenders for the final podium, places in the top ten and the important UCI WorldTour points is long. There are 10 riders within 50 seconds of the Polish race leader and all could take the leader's yellow jersey if they ride two seconds per kilometre faster than Majka. However none of them are time trial experts.
Last year Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) claimed victory in the final time trial of the Tour of Poland ahead of Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Taylor Phinney (BMC), while Peter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) took overall victory ahead of Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale). The Dutch rider was in a position to land a possible second consecutive victory until Friday's hilly stage, when he lost 6:52 to Majka.
The record books show that neither Rafal Majka or Ion Izagirre have performed well in key time trials during their careers.
“The situation will be much different at the Tour of Poland because Majka will fight for his jersey," Jaimerena suggested.
Other Polish riders in action at the Tour of Poland believe their compatriot is in a good position to retain the lead and win the race.
“Majka is not so strong in the legs at the moment but he is highly motivated”, insisted his team mate Pawel Poljanski. “A Polish rider having the yellow jersey in Poland, that's massive! It will give him a great support.”
Maciej Paterski (CCC Polkowice) and the King of Mountains leader agreed. “I think Majka can hold his jersey. And it would be a very good thing for Polish cycling," he said.
Majka could become the first Polish rider to win his national tour since Cezary Zamana (Action Nvidia-Mroz) in 2003 and the first since the race was upgraded to WorldTour status in 2005.