All things are relative. Going into the Critérium du Dauphiné’s key weekend mountain stages, question marks hung over the form of Primož Roglič, but he nevertheless sat third overall, top of the pre-race favourites.
Such is the aura the Slovenian has built over the past few years, anything other than ultra-dominance is perceived as fateful weakness.
At Vaujany on Saturday, Roglič went some way to silencing those doubts, skipping clear of a weary GC group on the upper reaches of the final climb. The attack not only confirmed his growing form ahead of the Tour de France, but put him in the yellow jersey, with the opportunity to win the Dauphiné for the first time in Jumbo-Visma’s history.
Tao Geoghegan Hart revealed that he’d sensed Roglič riding differently to usual this week, drifting around the bunch, and Roglic himself had acknowledged he was “definitely not at my best”.
As such, his attack at Vaujany was something of a statement, especially since he hasn’t raced since late April and was forced to restructure his schedule due to a knee injury.
“Definitely, it was super important for my confidence,” Roglič said in his yellow jersey press conference.
“I took time now to come back. I’ve actually felt better and better the whole week. Already in the time trial I saw that I can push a bit. Today I’m super happy that I’m back, and I’m back in the action.”
And yet, you sense there’s more to come. Roglič’s attack was clinical, netting between 15 and 30 seconds on his rivals, but, all things being relative, it arguably wasn’t as devastating as a Roglič in flying form.
“Definitely,” Roglič said when asked if there was still a long way to go in his journey to peak condition.
“Looking from the point of view of my preparation, I didn’t really prepare for the Dauphiné. I needed to come here to get the intensive days in the legs. For the start of the Tour it should be fine after this intensive week of racing here.”
The Tour will roll around in just under three weeks time, but in the here and now Roglič has a race to finish off. His victory at Paris-Nice in March cleared his curse in major French stage races, but the Dauphiné title would nevertheless represent a prestigious addition to a stage racing palmares that already includes the Vuelta a España, Tour of the Basque Country, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Tour de Romandie.
Remarkably, he has now worn the leader’s jersey in every stage race he’s done since 2018, with the exception of the 2021 Tour de France he had to abandon due to a crash.
“I didn’t know that,” he said. “A fun fact, cool. But it’s better I have the jersey at the end of race and not just in between.”
Chances of that happening appear high. Roglič tops the standings but his closest challenger is his own teammate, Jonas Vingegaard, who blew the GC group up on the climb to Vaujany, with just Ben O’Connor able to follow before the Slovenian made his attack.
Vingegaard, clearly in great shape himself and now a luxury domestique, lies second overall at 44 seconds, with O’Connor third at 1:24, just ahead of a chasing pack that includes Tao Geoghegan Hart, Damiano Caruso, and David Gaudu.
“Again tomorrow is a big day,” Roglič said of Sunday’s hors-catégorie summit finish at the Plateau de Solaison. “The queen stage is in front of us and we need to finish it off.”
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Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist, and former deputy editor of Cyclingnews, who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.