Primoz Roglic stronger than bad luck

The Slovenian rider won the Giro 2023 which ended on Sunday, on the streets of Rome, ignoring the damage.

The new king of the Giro d’Italia is Slovenian. Primoz Roglic won the 2023 edition of the Giro on Sunday 28 May, celebrating his fourth Grand Tour crowning after three victories in the Vuelta (2019, 2020, 2021). Discreet in the first two weeks, the Jumbo-Visma rider overturned the general classification during the penultimate stage, on Saturday, which he largely dominated. The perfect shot for those who only wore the pink jersey on the last day, on the streets of Rome.

“It’s incredible. The audience gave me wings. I was flying”, the latter raved in front of the camera, his son on his knees. Yet the former ski jumper didn’t go far from one of these icy delusions that stick to his skin. In the ascent of Monte Lussari, his mad rush to victory was thwarted by a jump in the chain which forced him to dismount. Enough to bring back the painful memory of another time trial, that of the Planche des Belles filles, when he had lost the 2020 Tour de France when he was in the yellow jersey the day before the finish line.

Champion resilience

But, this time, there was no livid face, no flailing helmet. Despite his reputation as an unlucky runner, the Slovenian resumed his forward march and ended up in a cannonball. He had to take 26 seconds off his main rival, Geraint Thomas, and did much better, relegating him to 40 seconds, and the rest of the competition beyond that. “To be honest Primoz deserves it. He had a mechanical problem and still crashed me”acknowledged the British, fair play.

“It’s Primoz, he’s used to coming back stronger and stronger”commented his faithful mountain lieutenant, Sepp Kuss, relieved after the climb “stressful” of his boss. The American was there when his teammate foundered in the 2020 Tour when he abandoned the Critérium du Dauphiné the same year he was the leader before the final stage. He had crashed a week before him at the Vuelta 2022, when Roglic was battling Remco Evenepoel for the top step of the podium.

In this Giro, fate was no longer kind to “Rogla”. It is with a renewed team that he presented himself at the starting line in Fossacesia Marina. Scheduled to surround the Slovenian, Tobias Foss, Robert Gesink and Jos van Emden were all impacted by Covid-19 at the last minute, while Jan Tratnik suffered a crash in training on the eve of the inaugural meeting. Whether it’s Rohan Dennis, Michel Hessmann, Thomas Gloag or Sam Oomen, none of these four riders accompanying Roglic had been prepared to race three weeks at this point in his season.

A profitable strategy

Primoz Roglic himself didn’t give the impression of being imperial, showing himself weaker than the competition in the first two laps. During the first part of the race, many wondered if his underperformance was linked to coronavirus contamination. “He told me he had Covid on Friday (stage 12), so I told him, ‘Stay away from me then,'” he had also entrusted Geraint Thomas to Cyclingnews on 13 May.

Covid or not, the Slovenian advanced masked, never rushing to remove Thomas, Armirail or Leknessund from the pink jersey. He stood out, like the other leaders, for the wait-and-see attitude shown by all those who had ambitions in the general classification. “We knew he was waiting for the big moment. Of course, there was a risk of waiting that long”, recognized Sepp Kuss. Despite the inconveniences, Roglic remained faithful to his plan, betting heavily on the final time trial. Koen Bouwman, another teammate, for example, explained that he had recognized Monte Lussari several times, running and climbing it, as well as recognizing it again, by bicycle, on the morning of the event.

After failing when he tried to dominate the Giro (but also the Tour de France) from start to finish, the 33-year-old rider has revised his plans and staked everything on the third week. With no responsibility to manage the group, he shunned the full light and shined in an itchy role. On stage 18 he deliberately dropped to the back of the peloton to suggest failure, before unleashing a violent attack in the finale, which only Geraint Thomas was able to follow. It is as if he had voluntarily got rid of the sign that had been stuck to him before the start of the Giro (and even more after Remco Evenepoel’s departure) to better satisfy his goals.

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