After coming second in the Tour de Romandie prologue to fellow Slovenian Jan Tratnik, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) showed impeccable form and timing to take the victory on stage 1 in La Chaux de Fonds and move into the race lead.
Though his lead stands at just 10 seconds over UAE Team Emirates' Rui Costa and 12 seconds on David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) with Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) one second further adrift, one cannot discount Roglic as a contender to take home the overall victory. He won both stage races he's started this season - beginning at the UAE Tour where he led from start to finish, and on to Tirreno-Adriatico where he snatched the overall win on the final day's time trial from Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
The Slovenian is now looking ahead to the Giro d'Italia where he will throw his hat into the ring of major favourites.
"I didn't expect to win here," Roglic said. "After Tirreno-Adriatico, I went on an altitude camp in preparation for my main goal, the Giro. I recently came back from it. Then you have to wait and see how things will go."
The 168.4km stage from Neuchâtel was riddled with climbs, but it was the final categorised climb, the Col de la Tourne (4.2km at 7.2%) that drastically reduced the peloton. An attack from Hugh Carthy (EF Education First) was countered by Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe). The German's move was reeled in by an attack from Thomas, but Roglic was attentive and could rely on the help of teammate Steven Kruijswijk - who wears the team's number 1 dossard - when Thomas attacked in the final kilometre.
Thomas and Carlos Betancur (Movistar) were brought back in sight of the line and Roglic powered to a sprint victory from a group of 20.
"It was a tough day with a lot of climbing. It's a nice feeling that I was able to win, especially in a sprint," Roglic said. "It surprised me, because normally there is always someone who is faster. Winning in Romandie always is a special feeling. I love to race here. In Steven, we have a pawn who can go for the GC. He rode very well today, just like the rest of the team. We will continue to keep doing our best."
With stage 2 more friendly to the sprinters, a short uphill finale in Romont could be the first threat to Roglic's race lead before the summit finish to Torgon and the final stage time trial.
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