Primož Roglič has been through the routine before. Heartbreak at the Tour de France followed by a shot at redemption at the Vuelta a España. His remarkable ability to put crushing disappointment to one side and move on is well established by now.
In this latest instalment, Roglič dislocated his shoulder in a crash on stage 5 of the Tour, but he stayed in the race long enough to help break Tadej Pogačar’s stranglehold on the road to the Col du Granon.
By the time his teammate Jonas Vingegaard carried yellow into Paris, however, Roglič had already exited the stage with an eye to the Vuelta, which gets underway in Utrecht on Friday.
While Jumbo-Visma were toasting Tour success on the Champs-Elysées, Roglič was at home watching on television. The pain was less acute, perhaps, than the ordeal of standing on the podium beside his compatriot Pogačar a day after losing yellow in 2020, but Roglič must have felt an ache all the same.
“Definitely, you feel you want to be there and be a part of it, but for me I came to the very end: I came to a point couldn’t do one kilometre anymore,” Roglič told reporters on Thursday. “I had to accept the situation I was in, but still I was super happy with the successes we had in the Tour.”
Roglič shrugged when asked how he managed to pick himself back up again after his assorted Tour ordeals. He just keeps moving forward, as though following the advice of Don Draper. Two weeks after losing the 2020 Tour, he claimed a dramatic victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and then won his second successive Vuelta. Last year, his abandon at the Tour was followed by the Olympic time trial title and another maillot rojo.
“I mean, I always accepted the way it is,” Roglič said. “Then you do some analysis and figure out why some kind of things are happening and why not. Most of all, the most important thing is to try to keep moving and keep your focus, not on the past, on the future. It’s not about the last thing, but about the next thing. Now we are here, and tomorrow we start a new race.”
Despite the general air of déjà vu, there is one key difference between this Vuelta and those of the past two years. Roglič has not raced since he abandoned the Tour a little over a month ago. Though he declared himself ready for the Vuelta, his recovery from the injury that ruined his Tour has not yet been tested in competition. The early phase of this race could be revealing.
“At the moment, it’s definitely a lot better than it was, it’s recovered. In some ways, I still feel something, but we will see,” Roglič said. “Now I’m here and when I come here, I’m ready. But we will see in the coming days and weeks what that means.”
Roglič will expect to hit the ground running in Friday evening’s 23km team time trial in Utrecht – “It’s already one of the days for GC” – though the first critical test might not come until the race reaches Spain and tackles the summit finish at Pico Jano on stage 6. “The more demanding stages with a lot of steep climbs come later, so we’ll see how it goes,” said Roglič.
Roglič remains unbeaten in this race, and he is seeking a record fourth Vuelta victory in Madrid on September 11. Some challengers from years gone by are here – including his 2020 dauphin Richard Carapaz and past winners Simon Yates, Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde – but none draw the eye quite like debutant Remco Evenepoel.
The Belgian abandoned his first Grand Tour appearance at last year’s Giro, but he has built carefully towards this Vuelta, and he warmed up for the main event by delivering an astonishing solo exhibition to win the Clásica San Sebastian.
“I mean, if I’m honest, I’m not really thinking about all the rest, I’m just thinking about myself,” Roglič said when asked about his young challenger.
“We all start from zero tomorrow and, all the guys, we all have the same chances. Remco doesn’t need to prove it, he already proved he’s a super strong guy, and super fast on all kinds of terrain. And there’s also all the other previous winners of the Vuelta. It will hopefully be a nice Vuelta, a spectacular one to watch.”