Rafal Majka (UAE Team Emirates) has been forced to leave the Tour de France for stage 17 after suffering a thigh injury when his chain broke on stage 16 of the race. It is a big blow to Tadej Pogacar’s yellow jersey ambitions, because Majka was his best master for the mountains.
A statement from UAE Team Emirates just before the start of the stage on Wednesday afternoon read:
“Unfortunately, Rafal Majka will not start stage 17 of the Tour de France today. Dr Adrian Rotunno (Medical Director): ‘Majka sustained a strain injury to his thigh after a mechanical problem on stage 16 when his chain broke.
“This resulted in a high-grade partial-thickness tear of his right quadriceps muscle, and unfortunately, due to the muscle damage, he can’t drive.”
Majka’s departure will be a definite blow to Pogacar’s bid for the yellow jersey, as the former Tour de France winner King of the Mountains and multiple stage winner has been Pogacar’s main mainstay in the mountains.
UAE Team Emirates now have a depleted squad of 4, including Pogacar, two less than Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma squad.
Last week saw the departure of George Bennett with a COVID-19 positive test, and all-rounder Stake Vegard Laengen also retired from the race in the first week.
On stage 16, there was a further dent in the team’s roster, with Marc Soller missing the time cut, having been seen breaking earlier in the stage.
Pogacar is currently second overall, 2:22 behind overall leader Jonas Vingegaard, and stage 17 looked likely to be his best shot at attacking the Danish yellow jersey.
Also Tim Wellens out due to COVID-19
Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) is the last rider to leave the Tour de France with COVID-19.
A team announcement Wednesday morning said he had tested positive after mild symptoms prior to stage 17.
“Unfortunately, Tim Wellens has to leave the race. After experiencing mild symptoms this morning, a test showed that he has covid,” the team’s twitter post read.
Wellens was tipped by the team to be active on mountain stages and long breakaways, and would no doubt have seen the savage terrain of stages 17 and 18 as a ripe opportunity for a breakout attempt.
Wellens’ has won several stages of the Vuelta a Espana and previously wore the polka dot jersey in the Tour, where he enjoyed 16 days in the jersey in 2019.
It comes after two AG2R Citroën riders left the Tour de France yesterday with positive COVID-19 tests. 12 riders have now been forced out of the 2022 Tour de France due to COVID-19.