Pogacar loses key teammate Majka ahead of Pyrenees TDF stage

SAINT-GAUDENS, France (AP) — Rafal Majka pulled out of the Tour de France on Wednesday ahead of a tough stage in the Pyrenees during which he was expected to provide precious assistance to his team leader, two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar.

Majka, a strong climber from Poland, withdrew from the three-week race because of a thigh injury he picked during Tuesday’s 16th stage.

The news of Majka’s injury is a tough blow for Pogacar, who had already seen his mountain support unit reduced to four riders following the earlier withdrawals of George Bennett, Vegard Stake Laengen and Marc Soler. Pogacar has only three teammates left to finish the race, which ends in Paris on Sunday.

Bennett and Stake Laengen both tested positive for COVID-19 while Soler finished Tuesday’s stage outside the time cut.

“Majka sustained a strain injury to his thigh after some mechanical trouble on stage 16 when his chain broke,” said UAE-Emirates team doctor Adrian Rotunno. “This resulted in a high-grade partial thickness tear of his right quadriceps muscle, and unfortunately due to the muscle damage he is unable to ride.”

Wednesday’s stage 17, with four big climbs in its last 80 kilometers (49 miles), seemed like the ideal ground for Pogacar to attack again and try to unsettle race leader Jonas Vingegaard. Since he lost ground in the Alps, Pogacar has been on the attack but has not managed to make up for the time he lost to his rival.

Vingegaard, who rides for Jumbo-Visma, leads Pogacar by two minutes, 22 seconds in the general classification.

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