At the Tokyo Olympics, Primož Roglič completed a comeback from the disappointment of abandoning the Tour de France to storm to victory in the individual time trial, flying around the 44.2-kilometre course to win by over a minute.
The Slovenian was expected to be in medal contention on Wednesday, though his form was largely unknown after he had abandoned the Tour after eight days having crashed hard in the first week.
At Saturday's road race, he finished 28th at over six minutes down on gold medallist Richard Carapaz but looked like a different rider in the time trial, dominating the second half of the race to win by 1:01 ahead of trade teammate Tom Dumoulin.
After the race he said it had been hard to stay focused after the tribulations of the Tour de France, but that he retained the belief that has helped him take victory at the Vuelta a España and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, among other races, in recent years.
"It's super hard [to keep your head], especially when things aren't going the way you'd like to," Roglič said after the medal ceremony. "At the end it's always I worked hard. I always tried to keep believing in it. Still, it's me, it's Primoz – everything is always possible every day.
"I just went out – I had nothing to lose, I just went all out from kilometre zero and fought for every kilometre and I managed to come to the finish. That was my job, and I did it good and the time said it was enough for the gold medal and I'm super pleased for that."
At the end of the first of two laps of a circuit based around the Fuji Speedway motor racing circuit, Roglič was the fastest man of the 38 competitors, though just 16 seconds separated him and the next five men – Dumoulin, Filippo Ganna, Rohan Dennis, Wout van Aert, and Stefan Küng.
But when faced with the challenge from the past three world champions, another specialist in Küng and the in-form Van Aert, he only widened the gap in the second 22.1-kilometre lap. At the next checkpoint, a nine-second lead had become 31 seconds before expanding to 43 seconds at the final checkpoint before the line.
At the finish nobody was within a minute of the 31-year-old, who was the only man to break a 48kph average, passing his 1:30- and 3-minute men Kasper Asgreen and João Almeida along the way. He described his win as "beautiful".
"Super nice. It's beautiful," he said. "This [medal] is quite heavy actually. I didn't know it. For me it's incredibly nice after the, let's say hard things that happened in the last moments to me. It paid off, all the work we put in – from my side, from my family's side, from the people all around me. Today I managed to win the gold medal and being Olympic champion.
"In cycling it's stupid to compare all these [races]. Everything is super hard to win, even your home race behind your house. Every achievement is special. This one for sure for me is super, super special and I'm really happy."
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