After success at last year’s Giro d’italia and Vuelta a España, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) completed his collection of Grand Tour leaders’ jerseys on Sunday, deposing Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) from the lead in the 2020 Tour de France.
Yates had struggled but finally maintained his three-second margin in the general classification on the road to Loudenvielle on Saturday, but on Sunday in the Pyrenees, on the Col de Marie Blanque, a searing charge by Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) left him reeling.
Roglič kept control of his two most dangerous rivals, Pogačar and defending champion Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), despite Bernal launching his first mountain attacks of the Tour at the summit.
Then in the five-way sprint that decided the day’s honours in Laruns, although visibly disappointed not to have taken his second stage win, Roglič’s second place meant he could move into yellow. It also netted him a six-second time bonus over Bernal, pushing his advantage up to 21 seconds.
Since Wednesday’s victory at Orcières-Merlette, Roglič has looked suspiciously as if he did not actually want to claim the yellow yet, one journalist asked him, but the Slovenian denied that was the case.
“I’m definitely happy, every kid wants to wear it in their lives at least once,” Roglič said. “The team put on a strong performance and I definitely deserve it.
“Last year we had it with Mike [Teunissen], but this is proof we are doing a great job. I think it’s a big achievement for each and every one of us in the team.”
Jumbo-Visma had certainly laid most of the foundations for Roglič to take yellow throughout the entire first nine days of the Tour de France, as the strongest team collectively in the mountains. Riders like Tom Dumoulin, twice a Tour runner-up, have sacrificed any personal ambitions along the way. Although Wout Van Aert has twice claimed stage wins, it seemingly has had no effect on the Belgian’s dedicated climbing for Roglič.
After an off-day Saturday of not hitting on all cylinders, Sepp Kuss stepped back into the fray on Sunday as an instrumental piece in the Jumbo-Visma consortium of climbers on the main mountain ascent before George Bennett and Tom Dumoulin briefly took over.
However, it was an attack by Pogačar that finally poleaxed Yates, and it was Pogačar, too, who accidentally clashed wheels with Roglič at the summit, before winning the stage 20 kilometres further on.
Asked if his fellow Slovenian was his main rival, Roglič dodged the question slightly, by recognised that Pogačar “is definitely really strong. But there are nine days raced so far and a lot of things can happen before Paris. For the moment we can enjoy a well-deserved rest day.”
One thing that already seems to be happening is that, just as he did in the 2019 Tour de France, Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) is stepping up his game again, with the Colombian in far better shape on the Marie Blanque than he had been on the Peyresourde.
Asked if he thought he should have made more of Bernal’s relative weakness on Saturday, Roglič was notably hazy about that day’s strategy.
“I don’t regret it, it’s always a fight for every second. I’m really happy to be in the position I’m in now and a lot of things can still happen between now and Paris,” Roglič said.
Last year Roglič moved into the Vuelta’s roja in Pau, where Sunday’s stage started, after a blistering performance in the mid-race time trial, one day after the rest day. It remains to be seen, though, if he adopts the same strategy as he did in the Vuelta last year, and attempts to hold on to the Tour lead for a full two weeks, or if he ‘farms it out’ to a rider who does not represent a long-term overall threat.
He has been the strongest rider all round in the Tour’s opening nine days, and Roglič’s GC position is currently far less secure than it was in the Vuelta last year. So losing the jersey to a non-rival could be an option to save energy before the final, lengthy series of Tour mountains - starting next Friday.
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