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Majka on Tour de France: “I should be looking at a top-5 finish!”

By Jonathan Bouchard/Daria Skrzypek

The day before the final race of the Polish National Championship Men Elite, we were able to spend some time with Rafał Majka, Maciej Bodnar, and Pawel Poljanski from Bora-Hansgrohe to discuss the upcoming Tour de France 2017 together.

Rafał Majka during stage five of the AMGEN Tour of California from Ontario to Mt. Baldy on May 18, 2017.

Rafał, you’ve had the Polka dot/KOM Jersey twice in the past already. Do you see this year as a totally different, given that you’re aiming at the General Classification?

Well, what you’re asking me actually comes down to training. Training for myself and training for the whole team. To this I can answer that the Bora-Hansgrohe team is, I believe, well prepared for the Tour. I feel in a good shape, the same for Maciej and Pawel here. But we can also say the same for the two Sagan brothers.

But also I can share with you that we are definitely looking forward to the last ten days of the Tour de France because I think a lot will happen then.

Now about whether I feel pressure or not. I’d say not as much as last year because I just feel better.

Which position in General Classification will you be satisfied with this year? Any specific goals?

I must be honest and say that I and the team would be happy to finish within the top five. Then again, of course I am aiming higher than that. In fact, if my bike computer Stats are correct, it looks like I should be looking at a top-5 finish! And this is not just a personal goal, this is a goal for the whole team. Now, this is of course if I don’t get caught into an accident…

We sincerely hope that you remain safe for the Tour but then again, you don’t get into accidents much!

Thanks, I’ve been lucky but it’s also because I tend to ride towards the front of the peloton! OK, true, I must admit that in Slovenia this year it was a little too close!

Now for the Tour, I will have Maciej & Paweł to cover me so no problem there! You gotta know that riding on the wheel of a guy like Peter Sagan or Maciej Bodnar is pretty much like riding behind a full-sized car. (laughter) And besides, my friend Pawel here is pretty much screwed because he will have to help me get to the top of every single mountain! So you see, everything will be fine for sure!

George Bennett of New Zealand riding for Team Lotto NL-Jumbo, second place Rafał Majka and third place Andrew Talansky of United States riding for Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling celebrate on the podium after finishing the 2017 AMGEN Tour of California on May 20.

Rafał, as a team, everyone agrees to say that Bora Hansgrohe has had some tremendous successes so far this year. Your Giro d’Italia was excellent and recently, many of you have done very well. How do you feel as a team?

Oh well, this is because of all the new kitchen and bathroom equipment we’ve all got installed in our houses not long ago, thanks to our sponsors for that! (laughter)

But on a more serious note, at the begining many people were saying that even with a bunch of great riders, Bora-Hansgrohe wouldn’t get much results this year. Quite a few voices in the media claimed that we were some young players lacking experience, and now we see what’s it worth!

You know, sometimes it may just be better to have a younger and talented team where everyone will want to do their best, as opposed to a team with more experience but mostly unwilling to try doing things differently.

What about this year’s route? Have you fully studied it yet?

In all honesty, not yet. I know that the second stage will be some hill and it surely will be a very important one. Also I would say that Stage 9 going to Dauphine will be important. But then again, the Tour de France is not just about the mountains and can easily be lost on the flat stages. And as I mentioned earlier, I feel that our team is strong so if the winds come hitting us on these flat stages it’s even better for me since I can hide behind my teammates’ wheel better than some of the other GC contenders can with their team.

And you know, if by some misfortune the GC classification doesn’t come my way, then you can be sure that I will be hunting stage wins as opposed to settling for some 8th or 9th position in the GC. You know, I’ve already finished the Giro in 5th position, the Vuelta in 3rd. So an 8th position at the Tour will not satisfy me. And remember that we have the young Buchmann who has never been in the top ten yet. So I do see him contending for an 8th or 9th place with me by his side as something realistic!

Rafał Majka outsprints George Bennett of New Zealand and LottoNL-Jumbo to win stage two of the AMGEN Tour of California from Modesto to San Jose on May 15, 2017.

Lets take a look at your calendar for this year: so far, you have been selecting races which are somewhat different from the ones your GC rivals selected prior to the Tour de France. You chose to race in Slovenia whiles a majority went to the Dauphine. You obviously know your body limits and capabilities and you’ve raced the Tour in the past. So, why these choices? You weren’t interested in doing a straight comparison with the other GC contenders for the Tour?

No, I went down from our high altitude training Camp in the USA earlier and went straight into racing. You know, I stayed so long at high altitude this spring to be rather strong up until the last 10 days of the Tour. Pawel was with me in mountains and we’ve done some really good work. Sometimes it is good to train really hard and go down directly into racing.

Pawel Poljanski on the other hand has not raced recently, and came here only for the Polish National Championships. However, he also plans to peak in the last 10 days of the Tour. As for Maciej Bodnar, he has done the Tour de Suisse.

Now about the calendar after the Tour de France, we will see. I definitely would like to start at the Tour de Pologne and even La Vuelta. But maybe it’s too much… we’ll see if the team agrees to all these plans! But if I’ll ride, I think the boys will ride with me!

We’d like to congratulate your wife and yourself on your newly born daughter. Any special wish for Father’s Day?

I got a “Super Daddy” coffee mug, so right now, I just feel like Superman! She’s truly a darling and we’re lucky because she sleeps at night, which is great for the mommy! However, yesterday we had Maciej and Pawel at home and they started playing with her. That gave my wife and I a bit of a scare! (laughter)

We sincerely thank you for this time together. All the best for the Tour, Rafał!