Primož Roglič’s victory at Milano-Torino made the Slovenian the natural favourite for Saturday’s Il Lombardia and confirmed he is adding more and more one-day race skills and finesse to his cycling curriculum.
The 31-year-old was a late developer after switching from ski jumping but is proving to be a rapid learner. He refuted that he is currently the most complete rider in the WorldTour but is one of many talents who can win the Vuelta a España, win time trials, race through the end of season fatigue and win one-day Classics.
“It’s beautiful when you’re capable of fighting with the best in the one-day races. I do like them,” Roglič said after winning in the shadows of the Basilica di Superga, overlooking Turin with a view of the Alps.
“You learn and I’m still learning. I have to do these races if I want to be a successful one-day rider. After the Vuelta I did the Worlds and, phew... it was something different. But coming back to Italy, I knew what to expect and they’re the races I prefer, so I’m having a nice time.
“There’s no second chances in one-day races. In stage races, when you’re super good, sometimes you have some luck and sometimes you don’t but more or less, everything falls into their place. In one-day races you have to be super strong, be on a good day to make a good result.”
Roglič has endured an intense, occasionally painful, but hugely successful 2021.
Crashes cost him victory at Paris-Nice and took him out of the Tour de France, but each time he licked his wounds and came back to win Itzulia Basque Country, then the time trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games and even a third title at Vuelta a España.
He could have easily ended his season in the red jersey on the final Vuelta podium in Santiago de Compostela on September 5 but accepted to keep training and keep racing until mid-October, with Il Lombardia the big end of season carrot dangling in front of him.
“I didn’t plan those kinds of ‘holidays’ if you can call them that. It was hard, I was injured, not really on holiday,” he highlighted but making light of his ability to fight back and race on after a setback.
“The season is long for all of us. I’m not as fresh as at the beginning of the season but getting results like this is still nice, so we always go to the start to do our best.”
Roglič admitted he had to suffer for his win atop Superga.
He had to be quick to jump in the Deceuninck-QuickStep attack with 60km to go, survive the fast first climb when the Belgian team sacrificed Fasto Masnada and Mauri Vansevenant to shake out the group, and then hold on Adam Yates’ wheel and kick away from him in the final 250 metres.
“You don’t think much [when the attacks go early], if you think you're already in the second group, you just have to go,” he said of his decision to follow the six-rider Deceuninck-QuickStep attack.
“It was super painful. I was not ready for it but it was super hard from the moment they went until the climb and over the climb the first time.
“Yates came from behind and so you can ask what’s better? Stay behind or go up front. It was all out and I was doing turns, while in the group I could have more of a free ride, but it went right for us this time.”
Roglič’s decision to jump in with Deceuninck-QuickStep appeared to be preparation for Il Lombardia and to go with an expected long-range attack from Remco Evenepoel.
“He’s a great rider, eh? A big talent. At his age, I wasn’t even riding a bike. I think he’s got a big future ahead of him,” Roglič said in praise of the 21-year-old Belgian.
“I have to be ready for attacks. How ready, we’ll see on Saturday. But we can expect a move and hopefully we’ll have the legs and the team to be there.”
Winning last Saturday’s Giro dell’Emilia, and now Milano-Torino, elevate Roglič to pre-race Il Lombardia favourite but he has learnt that every one-day race is a race apart.
“I don’t have an advantage by winning today,” he joked.
“I’m pleased to win here, it’s a beautiful race and a beautiful finish. But we all start at the same level and from zero and the best one will win in the end. As we’ve seen in the recent races, we can expect some super hard racing. They’re not racing on the last climb but from far out.
“Il Lombardia will be super hard but you need some factors to go in your favour, then you can get a great result. Hopefully we’ll have good morale to do as good as possible in the last big race.”
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