Primoz Roglic lurking in third place after Paris-Nice time trial

Slovenian Primoz Roglic of Team JumboVisma pictured in action during the third stage of 79th edition of the ParisNice cycling race a 144 km individual time trial from Gien to Gien France Tuesday 09 March 2021 BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) tackles the stage 3 Paris-Nice time trial in Gien (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Primož Roglič started Paris-Nice as the favourite for the overall title at the end of the week, and third place in the stage 3 time trial in Gien on Tuesday only cemented that status.

Although the Jumbo-Visma rider finished half a dozen seconds down on winner Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) and runner-up Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep), his time proved to be the quickest among the likely GC contenders at 'the race to the sun', which will enter the hills for the first time on day four.

"How was it? Painful at the end, but obviously I went quite well," said Roglič, whose mark of 17:40 improved the previous best set by Søren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM) by four seconds. 

"The time looks good. So I definitely have to be pleased with the performance. It wasn't really a typical time trial, but I think it suited me. I like them like that. It went well."

Universally described as "very technical", the 14.4km circuit around the picturesque town of Gien on the banks of the Loire required frequent changes of rhythm, not least on the short, but sharp drag up to the finish overlooking the languid river.

"The changes of rhythm were difficult, but they suited me. I think it showed we'd done great preparation and I'm really looking forward now to the coming stages," said the Slovenian.

"As you all know, I've got quite some history already with TTs," he continued with a smile. "They're always a challenge to do. But the more that I do them, the more I learn about them, there's always something. It was a good way to go considering it's the start of the season. I want to keep improving in the time trials and hopefully, there's still room for me to do so."

It looked for a few minutes like Roglič might pull off the double of the stage win and the yellow jersey, but five minutes later Cavagna took six seconds off his time, with Bissegger shaving another half a second off a few minutes after that.

"We always have to wait till the end," he cautioned, laughing. "I've lost a couple of times by less than a second. So let's wait. I did what I could. So my job is done and now we see what the others will do."

Sure enough, even as he was talking to the press, Roglič was informed that Cavagna had beaten his mark. He said he wasn't disappointed, though.

"I always want to win, that's for sure. But he was stronger, he deserved to win and now we can focus on the next stages. I gave my best and I know he's a super-strong guy and he definitely deserves it."

Within seconds of saying that the Frenchman was himself ousted from the top spot by Bissegger.

Stage 4 brings a very different kind of test, with 3,500 metres of vertical gain on the menu through the Beaujolais hills, concluding with a 7km climb to the perched village of Chiroubles.

"I don't know the finish. On paper, it seems like a really hard stage and it definitely will be a hard day," said Roglič. The yellow jersey may yet be waiting for him at the end of it.

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).