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Primoz Roglic backs Wout van Aert at Amstel Gold Race

SAINTCYRLECOLE FRANCE MARCH 07 Primoz Roglic of Slovenia and Team Jumbo Visma during the 79th Paris Nice 2021 Stage 1 a 166km stage from SaintCyrlEcole to SaintCyrlEcole ParisNice on March 07 2021 in SaintCyrlEcole France Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) rides first stage of 2021Paris-Nice (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Primož Roglič makes his Amstel Gold Race debut buoyed by his fine victory at Itzulia Basque Country, but he has backed Wout van Aert to be Jumbo-Visma’s number one option in Limburg on Sunday.

“I wouldn’t really say it is the race for me, but that doesn’t matter. We’re here with a super strong team and we shouldn’t be afraid of it,” Roglič said in a press conference ahead of the race.

Roglič stressed that Jumbo-Visma have yet to hold their pre-race briefing but his reconnaissance of the circuit suggested that it was well suited to Van Aert’s finishing speed. The Slovenian suggested that he and Jonas Vingegaard would cut their cloth accordingly in support of Van Aert.

“Wout is normally a lot faster than we are, so I think for him it would be important to wait for the final, and before that it’s on us. I’m not really a super specialist for this race, but maybe I can be there so Wout doesn’t need to jump on every move and maybe he can save himself for the final. But if it works out that Jonas goes away with 50k to go and wins, that also works for us…”

Coronavirus restrictions mean that Amstel Gold Race this year takes place on laps of a circuit over the Cauberg, Geulhemerberg and Bemelerberg. Roglič last raced on a circuit at the World Championships in Imola last September, where he faced criticism in Belgium for supposedly failing to help his trade teammate Van Aert on the final lap.

“The first fact was that I was completely dead, and the second fact was I was racing for Slovenia and Wout was racing for Belgium,” Roglič said. “I couldn’t really understand it. And even if I was super good and started pulling immediately for Wout, what do you think about the rest of the break, that they would ride with me? Again, we wouldn’t have gained anything. Me and Wout, I think we both know the situation. But I can understand also the enthusiastic Belgian cycling fans,” Roglič said.

Amstel Gold Race takes place near the Maastricht home of Tom Dumoulin, who pressed pause on his career at the beginning of this year. The Dutchman has yet to indicate whether he will return to the professional peloton, and Roglič said that his Jumbo-Visma teammate was correct to take as much time as he needs before deciding on his future.

“We had a little contact. He just wrote to me that he’s still not sure. And I just wrote him back that there’s no pressure,” Roglič said. “It’s his decision what he does. I think he can do whatever he thinks is the best and we will all accept it.”

Tour de France

After Roglič lines out at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (which he won in 2020) next week, he is not scheduled to compete again until the Tour de France in late June in order to maintain his freshness for the event. He confirmed that his plan is to train at altitude in Sierra Nevada and Tignes ahead of the Tour, but he acknowledged that he has the flexibility to add a race to his programme if he feels it is required.

“We have to see, because it’s quite a big part without races, but I’m always ready to start racing straight after altitude training,” Roglič confirmed. “But if I figure out that I need some race rhythm, then we can find some races.”

Roglič was reluctant to say how close he is to his peak form, but he suggested he had some refining to do before La Grande Boucle.

“Everything is mostly about the power. Hopefully I will have as much power as possible and as little weight as possible. Hopefully, I will be a kilo lighter or whatever than I am at this moment,” he said. “But I’m always there, maybe a kilo up or a kilo down. Whatever it will be, will be. I don’t stress about it. When you have the power, you have the weapon.”

Roglič beat his fellow countryman Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) to win in the Basque Country last week, but he downplayed the idea that the victory carried psychological weight ahead of the Tour.

“It doesn’t matter if we are from the same country, we are rivals for the win. Sometimes I win, sometimes he wins. This time I won and I’m super happy about it,” said Roglič, who will renew acquaintances with Pogačar when he makes his Flèche Wallonne debut.

Roglič has only ever sampled a virtual version of the Mur de Huy, but he will race it for keeps on Wednesday.

“I’ve seen it on television, and I did it on the Tackx,” Roglič laughed. “It’s super steep but thankfully, it’s not too long.”