We’ve been here before with Primoz Roglic. On the road to San Marino, in the Giro d’Italia, to be precise.
A dominant time-trial, rivals flailing in his wake, and the massed ranks of social media declaring the race over. Done. Forget the next fortnight: he’s uncatchable.
But he wasn’t.
The mountains, and the wafer-thin climbing specialists made sure of that.
So, in the interests of lessons learnt, let’s agree that at the conclusion of today’s time-trial from Jurancon to Pau, Roglic is not the race winner. He’s the favourite. Though for the record, if Nairo Quintana manages to reel back the three minutes he lost today I’ll happily eat my own cycling helmet.
Let’s not be hasty, that’s all.
‘Superman’ Lopez fared slightly better than Quintana but still shipped a couple of minutes.
Valverde, lurking, as he does, lost a minute and a half and sits second overall, nearly two minutes back on the Slovenian.
My only hope now – for the race, the sport, and for Roglic himself – is that this epically quick time-trialling all-rounder develops a discernible personality, and does it quickly. Something on which we can hang our affection.
Because right now, he gives us little to go at.
He has no obvious quirks or kinks on the bike. He says nothing, really, to the media. He hasn’t got a daft haircut or a wacky pair of shades. The brief kiss and cuddle with baby and partner as he warmed down on the turbo trainer post-stage was our first indication that he’s even a human being.
Without one or two funny anecdotes and some footage of tour bus larks, backed up with a couple of strongly held and forthrightly expressed opinions, he’ll remain a distant figure.Embed from Getty Images
As a bike rider, though, he’s a force.
On Stage 9, crashing on gravel and then dragging himself clear of Lopez and Valverde on the final climb, he showed character and grit. In today’s TT, he was magisterial.
As the cameras flitted between he, Quintana, and Lopez, the difference was stark. From the moment Roglic rolled down the start ramp – clunk! – his body assumed a chiselled, honed, stock still position. Aero and powerful. In contrast to the two Colombians, who fidget and wiggle as if riding someone else’s bike wearing someone else’s skinsuit.
The time-trial is not their forté.
Over the next eleven stages La Vuelta will serve up lots and lots of mountains. The sun will shine relentlessly. Movistar will baffle and entertain with their ‘team’ tactics. Valverde will lurk. Lopez will glide around, stone faced, like an assassin.
And in the end it might turn out that Roglic did, indeed, win La Vuelta today.
But we all know speculation is a mugs game.
(Image: By Konstantin Kleine – Praca własna, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78773373)