CARCASSONNE, France (VN) — Tour de France leader Tadej Pogačar can still count on Rafal Majka ahead of decisive stages in the Pyrénées after he was involved in a late-race crash in Friday’s 13th stage.
The Polish veteran went down hard in a high-speed crash that sent a few riders toppling into a ravine and saw the likes of Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) crash out of the race.
“It’s a big loss if he goes home,” Pogačar after finishing safely in the bunch to defend yellow. “Let’s cross our fingers that he can stay in the Tour.”
UAE-Team Emirates’ medical stage confirmed that Majka, who was transported to a local hospital for X-rays, did not suffer any fractures. Officials confirmed he will start Saturday’s stage.
That news comes as a relief after Majka provided key support for Pogačar on the double-ascent of Mont Ventoux on Wednesday.
“Majka crashed really hard, and maybe we are one less,” Pogačar said. “I hope there is nothing broken and he can continue tomorrow. Rafal was really good until now. He showed that he is really prepared to help me in the last two weeks.”
If Majka was unable to continue or remains hobbled in a serious way, it would big blow to Pogačar as he pedals into a string of decisive climbing stages looming in the Pyrénées.
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) July 9, 2021
Saturday’s transition stage should be one for a breakaway before Sunday’s climbing stage into Andorra. Following Monday’s rest day, a trio of hard climbing stages will be the last chance for Pogačar’s rivals to try to take it to him.
So far, UAE Emirates is doing a good job at protecting Pogačar’s yellow jersey, but seeing him isolated at the top of Mont Ventoux is offering a ray of light for his rivals.
UAE-Team Emirates also has seen crashes from several riders, but Pogačar escaped most of the carnage in the first week that took out several key rivals, including Primož Roglič and Geraint Thomas.
Of the major teams in the top-six on GC, only UAE and EF Education-Nippo still pack full eight-rider rosters. Jumbo-Visma lost three riders, and Ineos Grenadiers saw Luke Rowe miss the time cut on Wednesday. Bora Hangrohe and Ag2r-Citroën are down one rider each.
With his most direct rivals all knotted up at more than five minutes back, Pogačar is in the driver’s seat heading into the Pyrénées.
“It’s really good for me that they are really close,” he said. “They are all fighting to beat each other. I am in good position and they need to watch each other.”