Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) showed yet again this week he will leave no stone un-turned in his quest to win the Tour de France as the Slovenian tested his techniques for racing cobbles at the Grand Prix de Denain.
This summer’s Tour de France will feature nearly 20 kilometres of cobbled racing in what promises to be one of the most fraught first week stages.
And with that very much in mind, both Roglič and teammate Jonas Vingegaard, set to be Jumbo-Visma’s co-leader for the Tour de France, took part in the lowkey mid-week Grand Prix de Denain to consolidate their techniques for riding at race speed across the pavé of northern France.
Prior to racing Jumbo-Visma sources had explained that rather than use the much rougher pave of the Flemish Classics as a test, the smoother cobbles on the GP de Denain route were more similar to those the peloton will be tackling this summer on stage 5 from Lille to Arenberg.
While a late puncture kept Vingegaard out of the main race action, Roglič proved to be thoroughly at home on the cobbles. Fresh off his win at Paris-Nice, the Slovenian took part in a 35-kilometre late break alongside three Ineos Grenadiers racers: Magnus Sheffield, Jonathan Narvaez and Ben Turner, as well as France’s Damien Touzé (AG2R Citroën).
Reeled in two kilometres from the line with the rest of the break, Roglič said afterwards that he felt very satisfied with his high-profile performance on such nominally unfamiliar terrain – despite nearly making it to the line.
“More than a special result, I was here to experience the cobbles,” Roglič, finally 36th at 22 seconds behind winner Max Walscheid (Cofidis), told reporters at the finish, “and I have learned a lot.”
The GP de Denain contained just over 20 kilometres of cobbles in twelve sections this year, in comparison to the 19.4 kilometres which the peloton will tackle this summer in the Tour.
“You really have to stay focused all the time, this is a very different kind of racing. Going into each sector of cobbles, it gets really nervous, everybody wants to be in front.”
“Here we could race on the sides of the roads at some points,” where the grass verges offered a notably smoother racing experience than the cobbles, “but in the Tour, where there will be more public, that won’t be possible. We’ll have to stay in the middle.”
Roglič also highlighted the narrowness of the cobbled sectors, with just two or three participants able to ride abreast. But other eye-witness at the GP de Denain said they were impressed by what they saw.
“He was like a machine, he’s so strong that he was up there at the front every time we started a sector,” Adrien Petit (Intermarche-Gobert-Wanty Materiaux), third overall, later told L’Equipe.
However, Roglič's success was not enough in the short-term, he said, for him to foster plans of taking part in cycling's ultimate cobbled challenge, Paris-Roubaix.
Indeed, post the GP de Denain the next stop for Roglič was a flight out of Brussels to Italy for a very different Monument: Milan-San Remo on Saturday.
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