En route to the Tour de France, the AMGEN Tour of California is a major rendez-vous for sprinters and climbers alike. Twice King of the Mountains on the French roads, Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) will once again line up for America’s biggest cycling event alongside his teammate and friend Peter ‘King of California’ Sagan. “I’ll try to win, for sure, and we always have fun with Peter”, the Polish climber says, very much willing to tackling the race’s gruelling challenges as well as enjoying its unique atmosphere.
“Racing in America is a bit different”, Majka states ahead of his third participation. “It’s a hard race! But we still have time for fun. The organisation is great and we don’t have too many transfers.” The Polish star highlights the “passion for cycling there is in America, and especially in California” as one of the main ingredients for continuing growth of the only World Tour event set on American soil. “The crowd gets excited, they’re screaming… It’s no surprise for me anymore. I remember the excitement from my first participation, in 2011.”
At the time, Majka was only a rookie, participating in his second stage race as a professional rider. He was 30th overall and already showed major climbing abilities finishing 11th atop Mount Baldy at 21 years old. “I remember pulling for my sprinter”, he says. “Big names were there, like Andy Schleck, who always used to come to California… Racing with those guys was really nice for me. It meant a lot.”
Seven years later, Rafal Majka is one of the biggest names in the star-studded peloton getting ready to take over Californian roads and an obvious favorite for the overall victory in the 13th edition of the AMGEN Tour of California (13-19 May). “I want to be good in California, then I’ll have some time to train in altitude before the Tour”, he explains a year after winning a stage in San Jose and finishing second overall.
“We hit the mountains first and then there was the time-trial in altitude, that’s where I lost the race", he recalls. "But I still was happy and I’m delighted to return for a third time. This time it’s different, no time-trial in altitude! But there is still a TT and two hard stages. I think I know how I need to prepare for this race and we want to do something.”
Majka is even more ambitious with Sagan also preparing for the Californian showdown. “People love him, he’s so funny”, the Polish climber says about his friend. “And everyone knows how strong he is. Nobody has ever been World champion three times in a row! He’s also a great teammate. Riding with him is easy for us. He always motivates the guys. For sure, with him in California, we have a great team, great support and we’ll try to win some stages.”