After getting through the final road stage of the Vuelta a España, race leader Primož Roglič continued his typically cautious approach towards his increasingly high prospects of a third overall victory.
Second on the very hilly stage 20 and with no problems defending his lead, the Jumbo-Visma leader now has just one medium-length technical time trial standing between himself and a third outright win in the Vuelta a España on Sunday evening.
But despite having a solid advantage of 2:38 over Enric Mas (Movistar), The Slovenian continued to strike a cautious note in his leader’s press conference.
He also refused to deliver an opinion about the controversial abandon of Miguel Angel López (Movistar), which he learned about from the media.
"It’s not my problem and I don’t want to talk about it," was his succinct answer.
Regarding the stage win, Roglič was caught out, like the rest of the favourites, by a stunning late attack from Clément Champoussin (AG2R Citroën). But he said that while he had fought to add a fourth Vuelta stage to his 2021 tally of victories, "other guys also deserve to win" and that he was, in any case, looking at the bigger picture.
"There’s always a question of why or if afterwards, but you cannot always have everything in life, so you try to be focused on the main goals," he said.
"It was a hard stage after Ineos began to take things over, with a really hard pace and the race exploded. Luckily I had the legs, and I could stay with the best guys all the way to the finish."
Roglič refused to confirm himself as the virtual winner of the Vuelta yet, saying "I’ve already answered that question - no, I’m not."
As for his tactics in Sunday's concluding time trial, whether he would ride as hard as possible or within himself to avoid over-pacing, he argued: "I’ll just try to do things the best I can."
Referring indirectly to his last-minute defeat in the 2020 Tour’s final time trial, Roglič added: "There is still one big day to come and I have had all kinds of experiences in these kinds of stages. For sure I will try to do my best. There are risks in everything, risks in cycling too."
Roglič is close to becoming just the third rider in the Vuelta to win the race three times in succession, after Roberto Heras and Tony Rominger, and only the fourth rider ever to win it three or more times. But he said that while he didn’t often know those kinds of cycling statistic in detail, he was always pleasantly surprised to find that he was part of them.
"I am honoured to be up there with all these big champions," he concluded with a smile. And come Sunday evening, assuming there is no last-minute upset, his position alongside them could well be even more secure.
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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