Despite not racing since Liège-Bastogne-Liège back in April, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) heads into the Tour de France fully confident of his chances of improving on last year's runner-up spot and winning the race.
The Slovenian, who has spent the last few months flipping between Tour de France recons, time at home, and stints at altitude, made his first public appearance in months at Jumbo-Visma's pre-Tour press conference in Brest on Thursday. He was almost instantly asked about his preparation for the race, which involved a very busy opening few months of racing followed by a complete absence from competition.
"It’s true it’s been a bit of a different approach but I already did some things like that because in past seasons I just did Giro and Vuelta and that went well," he said.
"Normally I come from altitude and I'm ready. Looking back to last year, there was also quite a big break with all the coronavirus things going on. I'm confident and we just have to see how it will go."
Another area that Roglič was asked to address was the strength of his team. Last season, Jumbo-Visma dominated the pre-Tour warm-up races and, but for Roglič's failings in the final time trial, would have taken the yellow jersey into Paris.
This time around, the team have been more subdued in races such as the Critérium du Dauphiné, while Wout van Aert has had his Tour de France preparation disrupted by illness and injury. Tom Dumoulin, who raced the Tour last year and was originally on the team's roster this year, has been replaced and the team decided against making any heavyweight signings over the winter.
Main rivals Ineos Grenadiers have returned to top form, with overall wins in both the Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse, while they bolstered their ranks by re-signing a revitalized Richie Porte from Trek-Segafredo. Even last year's winner Tadej Pogačar has beefed up his support in the mountains, with key climbers brought into the squad, while sprinters Fernando Gaviria and Alexander Kristoff have both been left at home.
There's no doubt that Jumbo-Visma remain one of the strongest teams heading into the race, and their leader brushed off the notion that a team like Ineos could gang up and isolate him in the Tour de France mountains
"We’re also here with a super strong team so we’re also ready," he said.
"We have strong guys and I am also confident in them. I want to show my best way, with my whole team. We’ll try and do our best and see how it goes."
A deciding factor in the Tour is likely to be the two time trials, with a 27.2km test on stage 5 and then a second race against the clock on the penultimate day, on a 30.8km route from Libourn to Saint-Emilion.
Neither time trial ends with a brutally tough ascent, like the penultimate stage did in 2020, but Roglič admitted that he had spent valuable time on his time trial bike. The Slovenian even managed a wry smile and a joke as he referenced last year's final test, when Pogačar snatched yellow from him with a jaw-dropping final effort.
"We’ve checked out both time trials and how decisive they’ll be, we’ll see at the end of the Tour. We saw last year they could be really crucial and big differences can happen.
"With this in mind, we tried to train with the TT bike and we put a lot of work in. We’ll see how we’ll manage it. When you’re training alone, you don’t see how strong the other are but we’ll see."
Editor in Chief - Cyclingnews.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.