The pink jersey rests a little more snugly on the shoulders of Primož Roglič, who avoided the crashes that blighted the run-in to Frascati on stage 4 to extend his lead atop the overall standings at the Giro d’Italia to 35 seconds over Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
Roglič’s late conversion from ski jumping to cycling has been cited ad nauseum in the run-up to this race, but it is worth noting that he has rarely betrayed signs of neophyte inexperience in his three years at WorldTour level to date. The Slovenian, it seems, is a quick learner.
The maglia rosa was carefully installed at the head of the bunch when it was split by Salvatore Puccio’s crash with six kilometres remaining, and he immediately sensed the opportunity that presented itself, surging towards the front of the suddenly diminished front group.
“I guess I was more in the front because I didn’t see any of the crashes,” Roglič said afterwards. “The thing is, all us GC guys are in the front and fighting to be in front to avoid all these unnecessary bad things can happen. That’s why it’s always a big fight to be up there.”
Only seven riders remained by the time they hit the short haul towards the finish line in Frascati, and while Roglič was unable to track Richard Carapaz’s winning move in the final 600 metres, his day was already a success.
“Yeah for sure I wanted to go for the stage but for me it was already enough to be in the front on a finish like that,” Roglič said. “I was happy with my position and the place where I was.”
By placing sixth on the stage, Roglic gained 18 seconds on Simon Yates, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Miguel Ángel López (Astana). A bloodied Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), a faller in the crash, came in over four minutes down and seemingly out of the general classification battle.
In the overall standings, Roglič now holds a lead of 35 seconds over Yates and 39 over Nibali and López. Dumoulin, meanwhile, drops to 56th overall, 4:30 back. Although the Dutchman sustained no fractures in the crash, his continued participation in the race is uncertain.
Dumoulin’s pink jersey challenge seems irretrievably compromised, even if Roglič was careful to note that anything can happen in the Giro’s brutal third week. The Jumbo-Visma man also declined to cite Yates and Nibali as his lone rivals for final overall victory.
“Of course, Simon is a very dangerous rider, and Vincenzo also, but we have also a lot of guys who can surprise,” he said. “We see how fast bad things can happen so you have to stay focused.”
Holding form – and luck
Ever since Roglič seized the maglia rosa with an emphatic victory in the opening time trial in Bologna, the burning question of the Giro has been whether he can somehow maintain his remarkable early-season form all the way to the finish in Verona on June 2. On the evidence of the Frascati finale, he shows no signs of relenting, but the road is still a long and redoubtable one. “We’ll see. Hopefully I manage it. I am looking for that that. It’s hard to say,” he said.
On and off the bike, Roglič has evinced the deepest calm on this Giro. He is the sole podium contender to have avoided mishap or time loss thus far – or “unnecessary bad things,” as he so neatly puts it. He was equally unfazed when asked if he was getting the feeling that he was somehow destined to avoid crashing and experience a clear run in this most nervous of opening weeks. Would that it were so simple.
“If it was like that, it would be so easy. It’s far from that in cycling,” Roglič said. “It’s brutal in some parts, and of course you always need some luck.”