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Roglic: Grand Tour bids will only end 'if I stop liking riding them'

Milano - Torino 2021 - 102nd Edition - Magenta - Torino Superga 190 km - 06/10/2021 - Primoz Roglic (SLO - Jumbo - Visma) - photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2021
Primoz Roglic wins Milano-Torino in 2021 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Third time lucky? After the brutal disappointments of losing the 2020 Tour de France on the last day and then quitting injured mid-way through the race in 2021, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) is set to make the same event the central target of his season again in 2022.

For all his repeat misfortune in the Tour de France in the last few years, Roglič has developed a cast-iron reputation for bouncing back from sporting disappointments with a vengeance, and so it's unsurprising that he shows no sign of wanting to skip cycling's top event. The 2021 Olympic Gold medallist will also test his luck in an impressively broad range of races, varying in 2022 from Paris-Nice, the Ardennes Classics and Milan-San Remo and likely through to the Vuelta a España in late summer.

The criteria for Roglič taking part in all or any event, it seems, is how much pleasure he derives from them rather than his success rate. In his return after five years to Milan-San Remo, for example, he's already pencilled in a team role supporting Wout van Aert rather than striking out for individual glory. But he's happy to take part in the Italian Monument, just the same.

"I just want to keep it fun and still enjoy it," Roglič told a small group of reporters during Jumbo-Visma's media day in Spain, before giving another example. "If I see that I don't like riding Grand Tours anymore, I won't race them and I'll just do one-day races or whatever.

"But at the moment I'm good with it, and I will try to stick to that thing, and get some good results in the longest races."

That includes the Tour de France where after two difficult years, Roglič has his fingers crossed that 2022 could finally be when fortune smiles on him.

"Hopefully, eh?" he said. "We're aiming for that and we're fighting for that.

"We won't know exactly whether we do it until afterwards, of course, so for now it's all about preparing ourselves as well as possible and we can come to the races to" - that verb again - "enjoy ourselves."

The big difference GC-wise at the Tour de France in 2022 is that Roglič will have the 2021 runner-up, Jonas Vingegaard at his side, as well as Steven Kruijswijk. All three Jumbo-Visma racers are former podium finishers, adding to the Dutch team's already considerable strength in depth.

"At the end, we'll see how it works," Roglič commented, "but I think for sure now you need as many strong guys as possible. But also you need to work together as well as possible as a team. Then whoever can win - we'll go for that."

On top of the GC goals within Jumbo-Visma, Wout van Aert has already expressed interest in trying for the Tour de France green jersey this summer. Roglič was asked if it is too ambitious to have multiple targets. 

"The more strong guys you have, the more problems you can have because everybody is actually motivated to do their own thing," Roglič pointed out before - unfortunately for those keen for a whiff of a rare controversial opinion from the Slovenian to rev up the press conference - quickly adding, "but if we all communicate well and really know why we are there, we can definitely achieve things together."

Roglič has several personal aims in the spring, including Paris-Nice - where, after his last-day crash while in the lead in 2021, he arguably has as much unfinished business as the Tour de France. Then there's Milan-San Remo, then a defence of his title in one of last year's most spectacular week-long stage races, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and the Ardennes Classics.

"Everybody knows that the biggest goals are the Tour and the Vuelta, they are, let's say, the biggest races. But Paris-Nice, if I'm in good shape, and can get a result, I won't brake for sure."

"Milan-San Remo, too, is an interesting race, one of the Monuments. It's a goal to be a part of it again and be a help to Wout. He's one of the biggest favourites there and if I can help again on the Poggio, that'd be perfect.

"In Flèche Wallonne", where he was overtaken by Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) in the closing metres last April in a rare uphill defeat, "I didn't expect that last year. So hopefully nobody will surprise me this time around."

On the far side of the Tour, of course, there's the Vuelta a España. Faithful to his usual low-key approach to historical statistics, Roglič said he was unaware that if he took the Vuelta title next September he would draw equal with record-holder Roberto Heras on wins and also become the first rider to win Spain's Grand Tour on four successive occasions. But despite using the Vuelta participation as a vehicle for some typically deadpan Roglič humour - "everybody knows I'm doing the Tour only so I can be better prepared for the Vuelta," he joked on Tuesday - he showed enthusiasm for the challenge all the same.

"Hopefully yes, I am coming back. And it'd be crazy and great if I could get the record, so I'm looking forward to it.

"But I haven't looked much yet at the route if I'm honest. I'm only just started preparing myself to be in good shape, and the Vuelta is quite late on. For our team it's a big start, with the Utrecht start in Holland, three days there, then there is a time trial near here in Alicante and quite a lot of climbs I've never heard of." The exception, of course, being the Sierra Nevada, where Roglič regularly trains at altitude, and which could well be the key mountain day of the entire race.

Many of the challenges will be similar for Roglič in 2022, but there will be some very different rivals. Remco Evenepoel being one in the 2022 Vuelta a España, for example.

Roglič places the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl racer as part of a wave of young riders that help keep him on his toes, saying "All that generation are a great motivation for us. They keep us going. And for sure he'll be strong in la Vuelta."

The same kind of motivation applies to Roglič for two more young riders, compatriot Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers). The former was the rider who wrenched the Tour from his grasp in 2020, of course, the latter the rider whom Roglič beat both in the 2020 Tour and in the 2021 Vuelta, but who will be back in July to challenge the two Slovenians.

"It's mostly like that," Roglič says when asked if he did not pay too much attention to the opposition and just focus on his own race, "because you can't influence who is there. But the more guys that do the races I'm doing, the better. It's more exciting, there's more racing and also the strongest one will win."

So will it be interesting fighting Pogačar in the Tour and then taking him on again in the Vuelta? "Yes, definitely," Roglič instantly responded. And quite apart from how Roglič handles his other rivals, that's surely a feeling few fans would disagree with, either.

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 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. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.