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Cyclists decide stage winner with rock, paper, scissors on final stretch

Team UAE Emirates riders Rafal Majka, left, and Tadej Pogacar, center, decided the winner of Saturday's Stage 4 race in the Tour of Slovenia with a game of rock, paper, scissors during the final stretch. (Jure Makovec/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)
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As they neared the finish of the fourth stage of the Tour of Slovenia on Saturday, teammates Rafal Majka and Tadej Pogacar cycled side by side and shook hands. Holding a large lead and realizing a winner needed to be decided, Pogacar extended his right arm to Majka and balled his fist.

Majka did the same, and they flexed their arms twice before revealing their selections in a game of rock, paper, scissors. Pogacar displayed a rock with his hand; Majka selected paper.

That decided the race’s outcome. Pogacar allowed Majka to ride slightly ahead and win the 94.8-mile Stage 4 ride, and the UAE Team Emirates teammates crossed the finish line with grins and their arms around each other.

“I am very happy with this victory,” Majka said afterward. “I want to thank Tadej and the whole team. We got through the last climb well knowing that Tadej could do better than everyone here, but he still left me the stage win.”

Majka, a 32-year-old from Poland, won the ride from Lasko to Velika Planina in 3 hours 53 minutes 52 seconds. Pogacar, a 23-year-old Slovenian, finished milliseconds behind. The next finisher, Spain’s Fernando Barceló, came in 22 seconds later.

Majka and Pogacar have raced together on UAE Team Emirates for the past two seasons. Pogacar, the current world No. 1, gave the spotlight Saturday to Majka, whose lone Grand Tour podium finish came when he placed third at the 2015 Vuelta a España.

Majka said Pogacar wanted him to win entering the day.

“He said, ‘Okay, you go for the stage,’ ” Majka told CyclingTips. “We did a small bit, but he still tells me, ‘You can win today.’ ”

Majka posted a photo with Pogacar on social media Saturday with the caption “Boys, [they just] wanna have fun!”

By triumphing in the race’s fifth and final stage Sunday, Pogacar was the Tour of Slovenia’s overall winner for the second consecutive year. One of cycling’s youngest stars, he won the past two editions of the Tour de France and will be a top contender to win his third consecutive title during the sport’s biggest event next month.

“In the sprint,” Pogacar said, “I did my best to repay the whole team with success for the great work done during the whole week.”

Saturday wasn’t the first time rock, paper, scissors has been used as the deciding factor in sports.

In February, Lille soccer players Jonathan Bamba and Xeka used the game to decide who would take a free kick in a French league game. In October, a pair of Illinois high school football teams played a best-of-three rock, paper, scissors game to replace the pregame coin toss.

That also happened in 2018, when a referee in a Women’s Super League match between Manchester City and Reading forgot his coin and had players use rock, paper, scissors to determine field position. In 2016, the men’s club lacrosse teams at Dayton and Western Michigan decided the winner with rock, paper, scissors after lightning scrapped their game.

On Sunday, Pogacar and Majka, who finished second in the Tour of Slovenia, spent more time side by side. They stood next to each other on the winners’ podium before tossing their arms around each other to pose for photos.

“It was an amazing week, amazing race,” Pogacar told VeloNews. “And, yeah, brilliant teamwork.”

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