Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) could hardly believe it when Julian Alaphilippe kicked past him with less than a hundred metres to go in La Flèche Wallonne, seemingly convinced that he had done enough to win after surging clear with 350 metres to go.
The Slovenian opened a significant gap, one has rarely seen before in the mid-week Ardennes Classic, but ultimately paid for his long effort and had little left when Alaphilippe came up alongside him and then went on to win.
“Julian caught me and passed, so he was definitely the strongest. Congrats, he deserves to win. It’s a hard climb up here to the finish...” Roglič said post-race after personally congratulating the Frenchman before the podium ceremony.
When asked why he attacked so early, he gave a typical Roglič answer.
“I was there and so why not eh?” he said deadpan.
“If I’d had stronger legs, I’d have won but someone was better today on the road.”
“There’s not much romanticism or philosophy here on the last climb. If you have the legs, you can go and you win.”
Roglič was making his debut at La Fleche Wallonne but was protected by Jumbo-Visma in the hectic final kilometres and then made sure he was on the front at the key moment of the Mur de Huy.
He bumped shoulders with Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) and then spun a lower great than most of his rivals with 500 metres to go to emerge at the front.
He waited until Michal Kwaitkowski (Ineros Grenadiers) had made an effort and then accelerated with 350 metres to go. It seemed like the winning move but Alaphilippe and Valeverde never panicked and the world champion eventually clawed back Roglič and went on to win for a third time.
Roglič is learning the hard way about defeat but was reassured of his form before Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, his final race of the spring before he takes time off and prepares for the Tour de France.
“You always want to win but I’m happy with my level and I’m looking forward to the next race,” he said.
“It was a nice race, it went fast. I’m happy with my shape going into Liege. Hopefully, we’ll see it’s a different race and we’ll see who has the best legs at the end of the day on Sunday.”
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