Bronze medalist from Rio, Rafał Majka (Bora-hansgrohe), is aiming for the top five in the 2017 Tour de France. Now, he is at the team training camp in Mallorca, but he found time to tell us about the differences between Bora-hansgrohe and Tinkoff, and his predictions for the 2017 season.
How would you evaluate your time at Tinkoff?
I had bad moments and good moments as well. If Tinkoff still existed, I would stay in this team. I have learned a lot, I have done many races in the service of other riders, but on the other hand I was also a leader. Now I`m at the new team and I have to wait and see what the future brings. This is something new for me.
But at Bora-hansgrohe with Maciej Bodnar and Paweł Poljański you can feel almost the same like at Tinkoff, can’t you?
Yes I can, indeed. We have a few Polish riders there, I know Peter Sagan and some staff members very well, but it’s not like everything is the same. The mindset at Bora-hansgrohe is different to what we got used to at Tinkoff. Firstly, Germans don`t accept being late, so Paweł Poljański and I always have to be on time (laugh). Secondly, Italian is not the first language in the team, so I should learn German to improve my communication with my team-mates and staff.
Are there more changes in comparison with Tinkoff?
Except for the colours of my kit, no. I`m happy that most of the things remained the same. For example one of the most important things for me is that I still have the same coach – Patxi Villa. We have been working together for a year and a half so far, which hasn’t given him enough time to get to know me well. It isn’t good to change coach every year. Rider and coach should cooperate for a long period of time. In addition, Villa is a very smart coach, because as a former pro cyclist he knows how does it feel to suffer on a bike and experienced his own rises and falls. And finally, I`m happy that Paweł Poljański and I will follow almost exactly the same race schedule.
Did you say to Bora that you would like to bring your team-mates from Tinkoff in with you?
Yes, my manager, the same who works for Sagan, did it.
Which races are you going to do as a build up towards the Tour de France?
My first race will be Challenge Mallorca and after that we will go to Sierra Nevada, for a two-week alititude camp. My next races are: Abu Dhabi Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, Volta a Catalunya, Fleche Wallonne and Tour of California. It is true that my biggest goal in 2017 will be the Tour de France. Maybe I will participate in the Vuelta, but most likely I’m going to go for stage wins instead of targeting the general classification. I`m satisfied with my calendar, but if it included only three grand tours, it would be perfect (laugh).
According to your initial race programme you were supposed to ride the Giro d’Italia.
Yeah, but it has changed. Why wouldn’t I try to ride in the Tour as a team leader? I don`t think I have a chance to win it, because Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana are the strongest and it will be very difficult to beat them. But I believe that top five is within my reach. All I need is a good build up and a little bit of luck.
What do you think about this year`s Tour de France course?
The course suits me well, because it includes a lot of climbing and only about thirty kilometers against the clock. In the mountains, Team Sky is arguably the strongest squad these days. If they have the same team as in the previous years, the only remaining option is to follow them (laugh).
Do Team Sky tactics kill the Tour?
I don’t think so. Why would they race any other way, having so many strong riders on the team? They have a large budget and it is no problem for them to pay a lot of money to get the best riders in the world.
But we shouldn’t forget about Alberto Contador.
Yes, Alberto keeps fighting, no matter if he has good or bad legs.
Le Tour is your main target in 2017, so does it mean that you’re going to start your preparations a little bit later than usual?
No, because prior to the Tour there are several important races where I would like to be in a good shape, for example Tirreno and Catalunya. I will line-up in Italy and Spain right after participating in the alititude camp, so probably I will be ready to fight.
How are you feeling on your new bike?
I’m feeling very good, because it is Specialized. I’m feeling comfortable on this bike, especially on a decents. I don`t have to worry about my equipment.
We could see how much you had improved your descending skills during the Rio Olympics road race. You’ve managed to avoid a crash and stay with the favourites.
In that race I was very close to becoming the Olympic Champion.
Do you believe that if that crash hadn’t happened, you would have won a gold medal?
I don`t think so, because we rode with Sergio Henao who is a pretty fast. But hadn’t Greg Van Avermaet and Jakob Fuglsang joined me, I would have taken a win.
Alright, but being aware that you’re a climber, you shouldn’t regret it much.
Yeah, I know. After the race I looked at my SRM and it turned out that I had the same power as in the mountains, which proves that I gave my best. Additionaly, there was a headwind. I hope I will get another chance to fight for gold.
Thanks for the interview and have a good luck!
The interview was held in Mallorca on 11th January 2017.
Marta Wiśniewska/Marek Bala
Translation – Marta Wiśniewska/Aleksandra Górska