Can Primož Roglič join an elite club of three-time Vuelta a España winners?
They say good things come in threes. Can this be the case for Primož Roglič?
Roglič will line up at Vuelta a España next weekend as a two-time defending champion and with the possibility of becoming the first rider in 16 years to win three consecutive titles – and only the third in racing history. .
The last person to do the triple was Roberto Heras between 2003 and 2005, while Tony Rominger is the only other runner to achieve the feat.
Read more: Primož Roglič finds Olympic redemption after the Tour de France abatement: “I had nothing to lose”
For the past two years, Roglič has ridden the Vuelta a España seeking to put to bed an earlier disappointment. In 2019, it was the frustration of what could have been at the Giro d’Italia, while in 2020, it was after the shock defeat of the last day of the Tour de France at the hands of Tadej Pogacar.
There have been a few bitter disappointments for Roglič this season, including being forced out of the Tour de France after just one week, which prompted him to put him on the line in the Olympic time trial. .
Winning gold at Fuji International Speedway last week will likely put Roglič in a much better frame of mind as he lines up in Burgos for the first leg in Spain, and the two-and-a-half-week gap to be recovering from his effort will be welcomed.
“Fortunately, in cycling there are a lot of races and a lot of challenges,” Roglič said of his intentions to compete in Vuelta a España after winning gold at the Olympics. “The last races I did, they didn’t go the way I wanted but I always believed. Each achievement is special and this one [the Olympic Games] for me it’s great, super special.
“I just went all the way and didn’t care. I was just giving 150%, really everything, everything and in the end I was just super happy to finally be done, I was over the finish line and then the rest tells me how fast I am was.
Read also : Primož Roglič shows resilience and humility in Tour de France defeat
“For us, it’s just so many sacrifices for the whole family. We all have to work so hard to achieve good things and it sure is for them. It’s just super nice that I can do these beautiful things too. In the end, the happiest thing is that I’m just in one piece and coming home.
Rather than frustration and disappointment, Roglič will be driven by the confidence of victory at Vuelta a España in 2021. Which mix turns out to be the most powerful remains to be seen, but one thing is certain Roglič will come out to win.
As if he could try to do something else.
A difficult GC competition
Roglič had to fight for his victory in the Vuelta 2020 thanks to a late push from fellow Olympic gold medalist Richard Carapaz. The Ecuadorian had the Slovenian on the ropes until Movistar reversed his advantage as he tried to take advantage and outrun a struggling Dan Martin.
Next week Roglič will face even fiercer competition in his record-breaking bid.
Carapaz will likely be back after a summer that saw him make history with his Tour de France podium and gold medal in the Olympic Games road race. However, it is Carapaz’s Colombian teammate Egan Bernal who will pose Ineos’ biggest threat to Roglič’s chances of securing a hat-trick at La Vuelta.
Read also : Tour de Hoody: Will Primož Roglič ever win a Tour de France?
Bernal’s preparation for the Spanish grand tour was pushed somewhat off the slopes on Tuesday with a crash in the opening stage of the Vuelta a Burgos, but he is still the big favorite for the red jersey alongside Roglič .
Of course, Roglič’s compatriot Tadej Pogačar will be a five-star favorite if he chooses to visit Burgos next week. The Slovenian is still an uncertain starter after a busy racing year, and he could choose to focus on shorter racing blocks ahead of the world championships in September.
We’ll have to wait and see on that one.
Mikel Landa, Romain Bardet, Hugh Carthy, Rigoberto Urán, Miguel Ángel Lopez and Enric Mas will also pose a significant threat to Roglič’s chances.
The Vuelta a España can be an odd race at times, often providing a last-ditch sedan for grand tour riders in a tough season. While a small number – like Bernal this year – specifically target racing from the start, for many, the Vuelta is not on the racing schedule until much later.
The added fatigue of a long racing season plus a motley group of favorites helps provide unpredictable races over the three weeks.
This year’s contenders are a mixed group of those who raced the Giro d’Italia in May and those who focused on a Tour de France, some of whom had an Olympic rider.
While Roglič has had a slightly busier travel and racing schedule than those targeting the Giro d’Italia and not racing in Tokyo, his number of racing days is quite low thanks to his race-less approach to the Tour. from France and his early retirement from the race.
Although Roglič would have preferred to come away in the yellow Tour jersey, his decision to quit the race rather than toughen up with an injury should serve him well as Madrid approach.
Roglič readily admitted that he often suffered more than most from fatigue towards the end of a three week race, and it was quite evident as he struggled to keep up with Carapaz on the Alto de Covatilla last year.
His low level of racing days could come in handy as he seeks to join an elite club of Vuelta a España champions.