Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) had the look of a man who was already questioning the benefits of wearing the maglia rosa at this early stage of the Giro d'Italia by the time it came to his third live television interview after stage 2 in Fucecchio.
A resounding winner of the opening time trial in Bologna, Roglič finished safely in the main peloton on Sunday afternoon to retain the overall lead, 19 seconds clear of Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and 23 ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
Nibali was a guest on RAI television's Processo alla Tappa post-stage analysis show, and so after putting on a fresh pink jersey and uncorking the day's bottle of prosecco on the podium, Roglič was patched through via an earpiece to offer a brief assessment of the home favourite's talents.
"Yeah, of course. He's a big champion. He's won a lot of big races. Hopefully we'll have a big fight," Roglič said dutifully, before downplaying the idea that he feared Nibali or any rival in particular. "I think you don't need to have fear. We just like to race. That's all we can do."
At his press conference later, Roglič would reach for a variation on the same answer when asked to rate the threat posed by Yates, the man who came closest to matching his infernal rhythm on the time trial that finished atop the Colle della Guardia on Saturday evening. "Of course, there's a lot of good riders in the peloton. I don't think about anybody in particular," he said. "We just try to stay focused on our job and leave it at that."
Jumbo-Visma's job on Sunday afternoon was to ensure Roglič finished safely alongside all of the main contenders for final overall victory on a stage where rain showers rendered some descents rather more treacherous than advertised in the road book.
That task was accomplished, though one senses Roglič would have been all the happier had the day's early break managed to stay clear on the hills in the hinterland of Florence and thus divest him of the pink jersey – and its associated duties – in this opening phase of the Giro.
Instead, Lotto Soudal kept the break on a tight leash on behalf of Caleb Ewan, while Nibali's Bahrain-Merida and Tom Dumoulin's Sunweb team maintained a high tempo on the ascents of Il Castra and San Baronto. The break was swept up on the run-in and Roglič finished alongside his rivals while Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the bunch sprint.
"There's always a lot of interests at Grand Tours. Every day you have 200 good riders and every day some team wants something. Today it was a sprint in the end," said Roglič "It was wet and a little cold at the start but then with the sun we finished well and in the maglia rosa."
Like Bugno in 1990?
Roglič's emphatic margin of victory in Bologna and the relative lack of climbing in the Giro's opening week mean that the Slovenian is well-placed to retain the maglia rosa all the way to next Sunday's pivotal time trial in San Marino, whether he wishes to or not. An hour after the finish, after all, Roglič was still fulfilling his duties in the mixed zone, the press conference and doping control, while his chief rivals were already arriving at their hotels. One imagines he would be willing to cede the jersey at some point in the coming days, but the arithmetic of this Giro may not allow it.
"We'll see. For sure, I would be the happiest if I have it in Verona, that's the main objective, but right now of course on the team we're all enjoying having the maglia rosa," Roglič said carefully.
On the evidence of his display in Bologna, of course, Roglič will be the man to beat in the San Marino time trial, prompting speculation that he might carry the pink jersey all the way to Verona on June 2. In Giro history, only four riders – Costante Girardengo in 1919, Alfredo Binda in 1927, Eddy Merckx in 1973 and Gianni Bugno in 1990 – have led the race from start to finish, though at this very early juncture, he downplayed the idea of joining their number.
"I don't know. I would not complain. We'll see," Roglič said. "But for sure, the guy who has it in Verona will be the happiest guy."
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