Rafal Majka (UAE Team Emirates) has been forced to leave the Tour de France ahead of stage 17, after a hamstring injury sustained when his chain broke on stage 16 of the race. It’s a big blow to Tadej Pogacar’s yellow jersey ambitions because Majka was his best home for the mountains.
A statement from the UAE Team Emirates just before the start of the stage on Wednesday afternoon, reads:
“Unfortunately, Rafal Majka will not start stage 17 of the Tour de France today. Dr. Adrian Rotunno (medical director):” Majka suffered a strain injury in his thigh after some mechanical problems on stage 16 when his chain broke.
“This resulted in a high degree of partial thickness tearing of the right quadriceps muscle, and unfortunately due to the muscle injury he is unable to ride.”
Majka’s departure will be a significant blow to Pogacar’s bid for the yellow jersey, as the former Tour de France king of the mountains and the winner of several stages was Pogacar’s most important support rider in the mountains.
UAE Team Emirates now has a depleted team of 4, including Pogacar, two fewer than Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma team.
Last week, George Bennett took a COVID-19 positive test, and all-rounder Stake Vegard Laengen withdrew from the race the first week.
On stage 16, there was a further dent in the team’s roster with Marc Soller missing the timeout, after being seen vomiting earlier on the stage.
Pogacar is currently in second place in the overall standings, 2:22 behind overall leader Jonas Vingegaard, and stage 17 seemed to be his best opportunity to attack the Danish yellow jersey.
Tim Wellens is also 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 for mild symptoms before stage 17.
“Unfortunately, Tim Wellens has to leave the race. After having mild symptoms this morning, a test showed that he has covid,” it was stated in the team’s twitter post.
Wellens was tipped off by the team to be active on mountain stages and long eruptions, and would no doubt have seen the cruel terrain on stages 17 and 18 as a mature opportunity for a breakaway effort.
Wellens’ has won several Vuelta a Espana stages and has previously worn the polka dot jersey on the Tour, and has had a 16-day stay in the jersey in 2019.
It comes after two AG2R Citroen riders left the Tour de France yesterday with positive COVID-19 tests. 12 riders have now been forced out of the Tour de France 2022 due to COVID-19.