Yates: Majka is a future Tour de France contender

Tinkoff-Saxo directeur sportif Sean Yates is confident that Rafal Majka will go on to lead the team at the Tour de France in the near future. Majka, who has already won two stages of the race and achieved two top ten overall placings at the Giro d’Italia, will perform a domestique role for Alberto Contador at this year’s Tour but Yates believes that he will soon be able to make the step up.

“He’s a rider that’s on the ascendancy with his performances from last year,” Yates told Cyclingnews at the top of Green Mountain, where Majka finished fourth on stage four of the Tour of Oman. “There is no quarter given at this time of year. Every time you go into a race and you’re the leader of a team, which Rafal is here, you want to perform to the best of his ability. He’s a potential future Grand Tour leader for a team.

“Obviously he’s in a team with Contador so it’s hard but if he went to any other team, apart from three or four, he would be a Grand Tour leader in the Tour de France. But that is a couple of years ahead of him.”

Majka was part of a three-man group on stage four in Oman that made it away on Green Mountain, but he lost contact in the last 800 metres and was eventually passed by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and came home in fourth. It was a tough day for the riders, and not just for the climb that they encountered at the end, with the 38-degree heat and gusting winds throwing up all manner of dirt and rubbish over the peloton.

“(The wind) made it longer and it made it stressful because you had to hide from the wind the whole time and you never really knew whether it would be a cross wind or a headwind, although it was primarily a headwind. It was quite brutal,” explained Yates.

Majka went into the stage as a serious favourite for the stage win after a strong stage two performance where he played a big role in splitting the peloton over the last two climbs. Despite being dropped in the final kilometre of stage four, Yates is pleased with Majka’s form. “We are happy, the higher up the classement the better. Our goal was to finish top five here and I’m sure that while Rafal is in the top five he’s not happy that he got dropped with 800 metres to go from those three.”

Looking forward

Majka is now fourth in the overall classification and 32 seconds behind the stage winner and new race leader, Rafael Valls. Saturday’s stage from Al Sawadi Beach to the Ministry of Housing could still force some changes near the top of the standings with four climbs in the final 56 kilometres. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) has already said that he’s ready to go on the attack on that stage in an attempt to take the red jersey from Valls but Yates is sceptical that there’s much to gain from the stage in terms of the general classification.

“If you haven’t dropped them here then you’re not going to drop them tomorrow, no chance. It will be a good stage for Peter (Sagan) and we’ll see what happens.”

Sagan won this same stage last year after he used his descending skills to outwit the bunch and take his first victory of the 2014 season. The first half of the stage is different to that of 2014 but the run-in is exactly the same and the Slovakian will be hoping for a replica victory. There is no doubt that Sagan has been consistent but he has now had 23 top ten finishes since his last victory at the Slovakian national championships last June. His last time on the top step of the podium before that came during last year’s Tour de Suisse.

“He’s tried to win many times but he hasn’t had much luck at the moment. Notably on stage two when it was perfectly set up for him and he was lacking something. After two days of not really having to go for it maybe it might be his day, one can only hope and we will try for sure,” Yates said. “For sure he’s frustrated, because in the old days he used to win for fun almost so it’s awfully hard.”

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