Sunday’s return to the high mountains for the Tour de France looks set to bring back pleasant memories of recent success for Primož Roglič, the race leader confirmed after a fast and furious stage 14 into Lyon, and they may well help keep his motivation high in what looks likely to be another major GC battle on the climbs.
Well-protected at the head of the pack by teammate Tony Martin, who set down a ferocious pace on Lyon’s long, narrow boulevards prior to the last two fourth category climbs, and then by double stage winner Wout Van Aert when the road began to steepen, Roglič came through Saturday’s fraught, undulating urban finale unscathed and in yellow for a sixth successive stage.
And on Sunday, Roglič is back on much more familiar terrain - the same climbs in the Jura mountain ranges on various sides of the Grand Colombier mountain, where he won the Tour de L’Ain in such convincing fashion five weeks ago.
“It was definitely a good sign,” Roglič commented when asked on Saturday about his success in the French three-day stage race in August, “because after such a long time, we all came back to racing and we all showed we had a good level.
“When you can show it, it’s nice to win stages and races, and you have many more problems if you are not as good as you should be. But now, a month later, we’ll see how it goes tomorrow. [Sunday].”
Visibly in good spirits, and with his morale perhaps boosted after taking time on rival Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) on Friday’s stage to Le Puy Mary, Roglič cracked what could have been a small joke when asked what the team’s game plan would be when the Tour returned to the mountains.
“Like every day, we try to survive,” he fired back with something bordering on deadpan humour, before reverting into his default interview position of sweeping general statements. “We’ll see how the racing goes, definitely we want to have everything under control. I guess it will be full gas racing and a lot of attacks, so we want to have as many numbers as possible going into the finale.”
Roglič said that he had expected a more straightforward stage on Saturday, rather than the high-powered, high-paced first couple of hours courtesy of Bora-hansgrohe as they continued their drive to put Peter Sagan back in green and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) up against the ropes. But, he said, his team had been more than able to control the situation in the high-voltage finale.
As for who his main rivals in the mountains would be come Sunday, Roglič remained as non-committal as ever - although his key rival could well be Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), by far the strongest GC rider in the Pyrenees.
“It will be a nice challenge again, and for sure it will be nice to watch,” he commented, “and my eyes will be on everyone. But mostly, on myself.”
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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.
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