‘I’m still here’ - Roglic suffers 29-second loss in the Giro d’Italia GC game
Primož Roglič lost the first round of the GC battle at the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday but he and his Jumbo-Visma team insisted he was not on the ropes after failing to respond to an attack by João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) 4.5km from the Monte Bondone mountain finish.
Roglič was fortunate to have Sepp Kuss to help pace him to the finish and he found one last effort to finish third, and so take a four-second time bonus. However, he finished a significant 25 seconds down on Almeida and Thomas, and slipped to third overall, 29 seconds down on the Welshman and 11 seconds down on Almeida.
Without Kuss and without Roglič’s fighting spirit, the time loss could have been much more. Roglič acknowledged that he had dodged a bullet and limited his losses. The fight for the maglia rosa is a three-way affair and Roglič is not on the ropes yet.
“I’m not the only guy here racing, eh?” he pointed out to Cyclingnews and a small group of other media after he left anti-doping, hugged his wife and children and then headed to a Jumbo-Visma team car.
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Roglič has crashed hard twice in this year’s Giro d’Italia and still has a dressing on his right knee. He seemed to suggest he is not yet fully recovered.
“I’m still recovering but I’m OK,” he said. "For sure you wish to be completely 100%. But on the other hand I'm still here, so I'm happy.”
With that Roglič climbed into a team vehicle, lowered his face mask and started his recovery meal.
Directeur sportif Marc Reef was left to answer questions and explain Roglič’s time loss and clear dip in performance.
“For sure he will bounce back, he also showed that in the past already, with his character and his spirit. He’s a fighter and he will bounce back,” Reef told Cyclingnews and the Cycling Podcast, clearly trying to convince himself that all was not lost.
“It’s not something we counted on, but the situation is what it is here at the finish.”
Jumbo-Visma had been hoping for a different outcome to the stage. The GC battle has been locked in stalemate since the Cesana time trial but Roglič had struggled when everyone expected him to excel.
Jumbo-Visma had taken control of the GC group on the early slopes of Monte Bondone with a steady pace and then Roglič and Kuss made the first major selection when Almeida accelerated away with 8.3km to go. Roglič spun his gear but his weakness was finally exposed with 4.5 km to go.
“I think that two guys were a bit stronger and that’s also sport,” Reef admitted with respect, explaining their tactics.
“It was a pace to keep the race under control and not to let the break get too big a gap, because there were some guys in there who could potentially gain some time on the GC.
“Kuss did a really great job. Without him, I think the time gap would have been a bit bigger, although Primož was able to do a really strong last kilometre.
“I think the time gap in the GC is now 29 seconds and there’s still a lot to play for in the upcoming two hard days we have on Thursday and Friday. I think that for sure on the days that are coming, there is still some time and an opportunity to bounce back.”