Roglic coy on possible maglia rosa defence strategy in Giro d’Italia

The 2019 Giro d’Italia’s first leader, Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) offered no clues whatsoever as to whether he and his team would be focussed on defending the lead he gained in emphatic fashion on Saturday’s opening time trial.

The unwritten textbook of cycling strategy suggests that Roglič could try to ‘loan out' the pink jersey in the first week of the Giro d’Italia, in a bid to ease the pressure on his team.

But the 29-year-old resorted to the tried-and-tested cliche of ‘day by day’ when asked repeatedly on the subject by reporters after his stage one victory and first ever lead in a Grand Tour.

“We’ll see how the race goes,” Roglič argued, whilst recognising that his advantage of nearly 20 seconds on second-placed Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) in such a short distance was a “good one. It’s better to have it than to be 20 seconds behind.

“But tomorrow [Sunday] is a new stage, we’ll start it then and I’m ready for that.”

Roglič was much more communicative about his feelings on taking a pink jersey that narrowly escaped his grasp back in 2016 in the opening time trial of the Giro d’Italia, his debut at the race.

In the pancake flat opening stage in Apeldoorn, Holland, Roglič finished just a fraction of a second slower than local favourite Tom Dumoulin, and although he took a time trial later in the race, his first in a Grand Tour, by then the maglia rosa was no longer in reach.

Roglič also pointed out that as a ‘race of truth’, a time trial was an accurate measure of every contender’s current condition.

“It is important to do this [win], because this is not a bunch sprint, everyone gets his own time. I was really close in Apeldoorn, but here was the first possibility I had to take the maglia this year, and I did it.”

With Slovenia only a few hours drive away, and many fans having come across to cheer him on, Roglič was able to celebrate the jersey in style. “Of course I have a lot of friends and family here, and my girlfriend – who is pregnant – is here too. It’s a very special day for sure, one I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Roglic also had time to praise team-mate Laurens De Plus for his exceptionally good time trial, placing eighth, a result which bodes well for De Plus expected role as a top mountains domestique in the coming weeks – one the Belgian has played to perfection in the UAE Tour.

But first, though, are a series of rolling and flat stages through southern and central Italy, prior to another time trial, where Roglič is expected to shine again.

However, the Slovenian would not make any predictions about the possibilities of echelons on Monday’s exposed run down central Italy’s western flank. “We will take it on the day by day,” he said for the umpteenth time.

Roglič’s caginess is logical given he has a much bigger advantage on his GC rivals than perhaps anybody expected so soon in the game.

However, it will likely prove to be a major topic of conversation this evening for the Jumbo-Visma team management, given using their domestiques to defend a lead so soon in a Grand Tour is widely seen as a high-risk strategy, particularly with so many mountain stages in the third week.

Last year, the differences between opening TT winner Tom Dumoulin and runner-up Rohan Dennis was so small that it was relatively straightforward for the Dutchman to pass on the jersey on the opening stage through a time bonus that Dennis won. This time round, it will likely prove a more complicated process - if that is what Jumbo-Visma end up deciding they want to do.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.