Primoz Roglic promises to shave his legs after success in Tirreno-Adriatico
Primož Roglič's stage victory at Tirreno-Adriatico was hugely symbolic for the Slovenian in lots of different ways: It marked his return to success after a complex bone graft operation on his right shoulder and months of rehabilitation and pain. It also confirmed he has trained hard in recent weeks and is still on track to be a contender at the Giro d'Italia, which starts in this part of Italy in less than two months.
In a more lighthearted way, the victory also marked the end of Roglic's hairy legs that have caused a stir in the Tirreno-Adriatico peloton this week.
"It's been a while since I won, so it's nice to be back.
"I said I'd only shave my legs when I win a race, so now I have to do it. But after six months, it's easier said than done. It'll take some time to shave all the hair off, to solve this hairy mess," he joked, clearly overjoyed and relieved to win again.
Primož Roglič undergoes major surgery to fix repeat shoulder dislocations
Primoz Roglic a surprise addition for Jumbo-Visma at Tirreno-Adriatico
Primoz Roglic still to shave his legs but shows his form at Tirreno-Adriatico
The Slovenian last won on stage 4 of the 2022 Vuelta a España on a rising finish in Laguardia. But his season ended in pain and complex surgery after he crashed with Fred Wright as they sprinted at the end of stage 16. He received bone graft surgery to address an exacerbated and longstanding shoulder problem which had been gradually worsened by a series of crashes.
Roglič's shoulder was immobilised for eight weeks after his surgery and he only got back into serious training in mid-December. He revealed the pain and suffering he has been through recently.
"I went through some tough months after my shoulder surgery, it was tough for me, my family and everyone around me. We made a lot of sacrifices but now we're back and now I appreciate the nice moments even more after not being at the top.
"You always have a lot of doubts when things don't go as you wish or you work for. But that's part of life. You have to remember who you are and where you came from, what you do in life and how you do it. With the support of my family, I was able to get ready again and be good this season."
Roglič won with his trademark, nearly unmatched surge to the line. He made sure he was well positioned in the final kilometre and then let his rivals hit the front before a well-timed acceleration to the line in the hilltop village of Tortoreto, overlooking the Adriatic coast. He beat Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep) and Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates), the results confirming the quality of his victory.
Yet the stage could have been so different. Jumbo-Visma's original race plan was to ride for Wout van Aert but the Belgian tangled with Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) before the climb to finish and crashed, forcing Roglič to step up as Plan B.
"The stage didn't go exactly as planned for us but worked out well in the end. Wout was unlucky to crash and I was lucky to be a bit more on the left and so I avoided it. I saw it but got past. I was lucky this time," Roglič explained.
"We changed our plan and so I went for it. That's cycling, you always have to be ready to change your plans."
Roglič spent a long spell training at altitude in recent weeks and made a late decision with his Jumbo-Vismo team to ride Tirreno-Adriatico. His original plan for spring 2023 included just the Volta a Catalunya and then a pre-Giro d'Italia training camp.
However, he was itching to race again and his presence in Italy boosted Jumbo-Visma's chances as they battle with UAE Team Emirates for WorldTour supremacy.
"I did a big block of training and felt that I was ready to race. I'd had enough of training and I needed some facing to make some last steps in building my form," Roglič explained.
"I'm surprised to win so soon but I felt ready to start racing again, to be in the peloton again but I'm super happy to finish it off."
Roglič took a ten-second time bonus for winning the stage and moved up to second overall, only six seconds down on Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe).
However, he was open about his chances of remaining in overall contention on the stage 5 mountain finish atop Sassotetto and especially on the sawtooth sixth stage around Osimo which is packed with the short but steep 'muri' climbs that often decide Tirreno-Adriatico.
Roglic pulled a pain face at the idea of climbing 20 short steep climbs just 24 hours after the 13 km climb up to Sassotetto.
"I've no idea what will happen in the rest of the race and how my form will be," he confessed.
"Today was OK because it was just three kilometres of climbing. Tomorrow is a couple of times more, but Saturday is far tougher. Wilco Kelderman and Tiesj Benoot are good and we'll try to do the best we can as a team. Just winning this stage is a lot for me."