A suffering Rafal Majka fights hard to limit losses in first Vuelta showdown.
Different than expected, the first mountain stage in this year’s Vuelta already saw some bigger time gaps. Unfortunately, BORA – hansgrohe’s leader Rafal Majka had a bad day. Already suffering on the first climb, Rafal fought hard throughout the stage to limit his losses to the race favorites. In the end, his time gap was 2:35, while V. Nibali took the win in Andorra La Vella.
The third stage in this year’s La Vuelta led the peloton for the first time into the mountains. Three KOM’s were on the menu of a 158.5-kilometer stage between Prades Conflent Canigó and Andorra La Vella. With a major opportunity for a break to jump away directly after the start, as the Col de la Perche immediately kicked in on the first kilometers of the day.
Again, the main goal of BORA – hansgrohe was to protect Rafal Majka, as no major time gaps were expected. Still the team had also plenty of cards to play, thinking about the stage win. Two options were considered, first to go into the early break, second wait for the penultimate climb to make a move. Finally, with Patrick Konrad there was also a possibility to go for the sprint in a diminished bunch.
As expected the action started right from the gun. There were several attempts and hard racing before one move stuck. Seven riders went up the road already on the flatter section of the first climb, a little later joined from an eights rider. Soon their advantage was more than 4 minutes, as they went on to be at the head of the race for most of the day, while BORA – hansgrohe road in the peloton.
But the stage turned out to be harder than expected. First, when UAE winded up the pace on the penultimate climb, the Peloton was already heavily reduced, and the break reeled in. Then, when Sky started pulling straight into the final climb of the day, riders were all over the place. Alongside some of the race favorites, unfortunately also BORA – hansgrohe’s leader Rafal Majka was in deep trouble. Struggling to find his rhythm, but fighting hard until the end, the former Polish Champion limited his losses as he crossed the line 2:39 behind the stage winner V. Nibali.
“I had a really bad day today. I felt it from the beginning and already suffered on the first climb. It was a hard day for me, but I kept on fighting because it is still a long way to go to Madrid and most of the favorites will suffer one bad day in this race. Still, we lost precious time today and it will be hard to come back from this deficit we are already facing now.” – Rafal Majka
“Well, in the end the race turned out to be different from what we expected. We had to put in all our efforts to support Rafal, who suffered a lot. But he proved to be a real leader and kept on fighting until the end. We have to analyze the situation before we can work on a plan for the next days, but for sure this is a big fallback to our goals for this Vuelta.” – Steffen Radochla, Sports Director