Roglic ends game of bluff with sum­mit con­quest

➤ Slove­nian shows no sign of in­jury to dom­i­nate stage four ➤ Yates four sec­onds be­hind in GC but Ineos strug­gles con­tinue

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Tour de France By Tom Cary CY­CLING CORRESPOND­ENT

At least now we can drop the pre­tence. Pri­moz Roglic, Jumbo-Visma’s for­mer ski jumper and the big pre-race favourite, is clearly still fly­ing. The ques­tion is: can any­one stop him?

Roglic ar­rived at this Tour de France claim­ing he was still nurs­ing an in­jury from the crash that forced him to aban­don the Cri­terium du Dauphine two weeks ago. There were ru­mours even then that the in­jury was a smoke­screen and that he sim­ply wanted to ease a bit of pres­sure fol­low­ing Jumbo-Visma’s dom­i­nant form at the Tour de l’Ain and the Dauphine, where they showed up Team Ineos.

As re­cently as last week, Roglic’s part­ner, Lora Klinc, told Slove­nian me­dia that he was “not con­firmed” even to start the Tour.

As the 30-year-old ex­ploded out of his sad­dle at the top of the Orcieres-Merlette climb, in the Tour’s first sum­mit fin­ish yes­ter­day, beat­ing fel­low Slove­nian Tadej Po­gacar (UAE Team Emi­rates) and Guil­laume Martin (Cofidis) to the line, an audi­ble gasp went up in the makeshift press room in an ice rink in the small Alpine ski vil­lage. “C’etait du bluff! C’etait du bluff!” screamed Lau­rent Jal­abert on the tele­vi­sion mon­i­tors, re­fer­ring to Roglic’s mirac­u­lous turn­around.

Whether the in­jury was a bluff or not, Roglic cer­tainly seems in good nick now. This was a se­ri­ous state­ment. Jumbo-Visma did not need to show their hand this early in the race. But show it they did.

Jumbo looked im­mense. They had al­lowed De­ce­un­inck-Quick-Step – who have Ju­lian Alaphilipp­e in the yel­low jersey – to do all the work chas­ing the day’s break­away. But af­ter the last rem­nants of it were swept up with six kilo­me­tres re­main­ing, they be­gan to drive the pace. Pierre Rol­land (B&B Ho­tels-Vi­tal Con­cept) launched an ill-fated at­tack with 4½km re­main­ing of the fi­nal climb. Jumbo ig­nored it and just car­ried on rid­ing.

The ques­tion head­ing into the stage had been whether Alaphilipp­e would be able to hold off Bri­tain’s Adam Yates (Mitchel­ton-Scott), four sec­onds be­hind him in the GC, in the bat­tle for yel­low.

As it turned out, it was all ei­ther of them could do to hang on to the Jumbo train. Wout van Aert, in par­tic­u­lar, put in a blis­ter­ing turn on the front, then the Amer­i­can Sepp Kuss. Tom Du­moulin lurked dan­ger­ously. Some ob­servers reckon he is in even bet­ter form than Roglic.

With 500m to go, Martin went on the at­tack, which sparked oth­ers into life. But it was Roglic who clearly had most left in the tank, leav­ing Ineos’s de­fend­ing cham­pion, Egan Ber­nal, in his wake. The Colom­bian came home sev­enth on a trou­bling day for the Bri­tish team.

Pavel Si­vakov, who fell mul­ti­ple times in the crash­fest in Nice on the open­ing stage, is strug­gling. Last in the race, the Rus­sian is just get­ting through each day, pre­sum­ably in the hope he will be able to help in the fi­nal week. His loss is keenly felt. Si­vakov was prob­a­bly Ineos’s form rider com­ing into the race. Richard Cara­paz, mean­while, who is the team’s des­ig­nated “Plan B”, gave up 28 sec­onds yes­ter­day on a rel­a­tively short climb.

Ber­nal, at least, seemed un­con­cerned. “It’s not good when an­other GC rider gets some sec­onds, but we need to be pa­tient and know that our best sce­nario is to ar­rive in the third week with­out los­ing too much time and then try­ing to re­cover time on the long climbs,” he rea­soned.

Yates will hope to do some­thing a bit sooner than that. Still just four sec­onds off the lead, he should have an­other chance to go for yel­low to­mor­row when stage six con­cludes with an­other sum­mit fin­ish on Mont Aigoual. “I live to fight an­other day,” he said. “It would have been nice to at­tack. But the pace was pretty fast at the end there.”

‘I live to fight an­other day. The pace was pretty fast at the end there’

No con­test: Jumbo-Visma’s Pri­moz Roglic cel­e­brates as he crosses the fin­ish line to win the fourth stage

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