Tadej Pogačar down to three domestiques as Rafał Majka out of Tour de France

Majka's withdrawal with injury is a bitter blow for Pogačar leaving second-placed Slovenian with just three teammates

Rafa Majka
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Defending Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar has been left with just three domestiques ahead of two crucial mountain stages after Rafał Majka had to quit the race ahead of the start of stage 17. 

Pogačar is currently second on GC behind yellow jersey wearer Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).

On yesterday's stage to Foix won by Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech), Majka was leading his UAE Emirate teammate and group of favourites up the final climb of Mur de Péguère when his chain snapped on his bike forcing him to quickly unclip. Majka was injured in the incident. 

Team medical director Adrian Rotunno said: “Majka sustained a strain injury to his thigh after some mechanical trouble 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 is unable to ride.” 

This will come as a double blow for the team after Marc Soler finished outside the time cut yesterday due to illness

Last week, UAE Emirates lost George Bennett, key mountain domestique for Pogačar, after he tested positive for Covid-19 and was pulled from racing by the team

On the same day that as Bennett, Majka tested positive for the virus, but due to a low viral load and a corresponding low risk of infecting others he was cleared to continue racing.  

The team were also hit by the virus earlier in the Tour de France when Vegard Stake Laengen returned a positive test result forcing him to abandon. 

With two summit finishes in two days in the Pyrenees, Tadej Pogačar will now face a gargantuan solo task of wrestling the yellow jersey back from Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma). 

The UAE Emirates leader is now left with just Brandon McNulty, Mikkel Bjerg and Marc Hirschi in support as he looks to win a third Tour de France title. 

Earlier today, Lotto Soudal announced that Tim Wellens has tested positive for Covid-19 and will also not start today's stage. 

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Tom Thewlis

Tom is a News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly, and previously worked in communications at Oxford Brookes University. He has reported from a wide range of races and events including the Tour de France and World Championships.