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
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