Rafal Majka showed his growing confidence at the Giro d’Italia by setting his Saxo-Tinkoff teammate Evgeni Petrov to work at the foot of the Col du Galibier in the finale of stage 15.
Although the young Pole ultimately lost his white jersey to Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale), he was in the thick of the action all the way to the finish, as the pair attacked off the front of the pink jersey group in the final kilometre in the company of Przemyslaw Niemic (Lampre-Merida).
Betancur won the sprint for second place behind stage winner Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), while Majka had to settle for 4th. Afterwards, he complained that Betancur had been racing for the time bonuses rather than attempting to distance the principal favourites behind.
“We were thinking about attacking but I was waiting for the hardest part of the climb and when we got there, I couldn’t work with Betancur because he was staying on my wheel,” Majka told Cyclingnews as he soft-pedalled past the Marco Pantani monument towards the Saxo-Tinkoff team car. “It would have been better if he had worked with me. I was expecting better.”
As the Giro enters its second rest day, Majka lies in 8th place overall, 5:20 down on Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and he said that he has little interest in being drawn into a duel with Betancur for the best young rider classification.
“I wasn’t thinking about the white jersey,” he said. “Betancur might have been thinking about that and working towards that, but if he takes it, he takes it. But that doesn’t matter to me. I’m here to finish high up in general classification and win a stage.”
Majka had surprised many with his strong showing on the first summit finish at Altopiano del Montasio, where he matched Nibali, but he admitted that he had struggled to cope with the cold conditions on Saturday’s altered stage to Bardonecchia. In spite of the snow that banked the Galibier, the temperatures were higher on Sunday, and Majka said that he had appreciated the difference.
“I suffer quite a bit with the cold, so yesterday was very hard but today was a little bit better and I rode better too,” he said. “It was warmer, I felt better and the team worked for me, so I’m very happy with how things went.”
Still only 23 years of age, the Bjarne Riis protégé was bullish about his chances of lasting the pace deep into the Giro’s exacting third week. “I’m hoping that when it gets warmer and when the climbs get harder that I’ll get stronger again,” Majka said.