Cycling-Pogacar’s Tour challenge takes big hit as Majka pulls out hurt

ST GAUDENS, France (Reuters) – Defending champion Tadej Pogacar’s Tour de France challenge suffered a huge blow on Wednesday when his team mate Rafal Majka pulled out of the race due to injury.

“Unfortunately Rafal Majka will not start stage 17 of the Tour de France today,” the UAE Emirates team said in a statement before the 130-km mountain trek to Peyragudes.

Majka has been Pogacar’s key lieutenant in the mountains.

It leaves the young Slovenian, who trails overall leader Jonas Vingegaard by 2:22, with only three team mates for the final days of the Tour. And one of whom – Marc Hirschi – has been struggling throughout and has not been able to provide Pogacar with any help.

“Majka sustained a strain injury to his thigh after some mechanical trouble on stage 16 when his chain broke,” team doctor Adrian Rotunno said.

“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.”

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson)