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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Can Rafal Majka Ever Win a Grand Tour?

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Back in 2015, Rafal Majka looked to be on course to become a Grand Tour winner. He recorded a top-30 finish at the Tour de France before landing a podium spot at the Vuelta a Espana, finishing third behind Fabio Aru and Joaquim Rodriguez.

Strong track record

The Polish rider was 26 at the time and was the principal Vuelta rider for the Tinkoff team after playing second fiddle to Alberto Contador at the Tour de France. The following year, he finished fifth in a strong field at the Giro d’Italia before claiming top spot in the mountain classification at the Tour de France, finishing 29th overall in the general classification.

Since then, he has switched teams twice and landed two more top-10 Grand Tour finishes, taking his total to six (four in the Giro and two in the Vuelta). However, the 2015 Vuelta result remains his only Grand Tour podium finish. So, can he ever win a Grand Tour?

Current performance

While Majka remains a regular outsider in the Tour de France winner odds, a Giro or Vuelta win is not out of his reach. Now he is riding for UAE Team Emirates, Majka could still reach his Grand Tour dream and will be a contender in the cycling odds for this year’s Vuelta after some strong performances so far in 2022.

He won two stages of the Tour of Slovenia in 2022, including one decided by a game of rock, paper, scissors, and finished first in the mountain’s classification and second overall. After fulfilling his role as a team player in the Tour de France, he looks set for another crack at the Vuelta. This year’s race features seven mountain stages and four hilly stages and could suit the Polish rider. He would also benefit from the experience of riding for a team that has won consecutive Tours de France in recent years.

Legend in the making

Majka turned pro in 2011 and has made steady progress in the Grand Tour but has yet to take that final step to become a Grand Tour winner. However, he is still young enough to make a push and is in a team that knows how to win. His podium at the Vuelta equalled the best performance by a Polish rider in a Grand Tour, following Zenon Jaskuła’s third place at the 1993 Tour de France.

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Back in 1987, Lech Piasecki became the first and only Polish rider to wear the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. He also won three stages of the Giro in 1989. A Grand Tour win would elevate Majka to legendary status in Poland and make him a sure-fire bet to become the fifth cyclist to win Polish Sports Personality of the Year.

It would take a perfect turn of events for Rafal Majka to win a Grand Tour, but he has the skill and determination to make it happen. All eyes will be on this year’s Vuelta to see if he can finally land that elusive prize.

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