The 33-year-old Slovenian underwent a bone graft to repair an injured shoulder late last year and did not hit the road until December. He later spent a few weeks training at altitude but the Tirenno Adriatico was the race he wanted to use as a springboard. And it was no easy test, with three difficult climbs and strong winds and cold weather buffeting the riders on the fifth stage, the second of his three stage wins. “I’ve only just come back to racing and I’ve won two stages,” he told journalists after stage 5. “It’s really cool.”
Roglič said he had suffered during the 10-km ascent to the finish line, which ended in a fierce headwind. The wind was so strong during this stage that it nearly blew some of the lighter riders off the road. The wind – a remnant of the winds that forced the organizers of Paris-Nice to cancel a stage – was also the reason that the final climb had been shortened by 2.5 km. And it was so cold that Roglič raced wearing five jerseys. After this stage, he added the race leader’s jersey to his collection, taking it from Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe).
And he was racing against top racers, such as the quartet he outsprinted at the end of the brutal sixth stage, 190.5 km between Osimo Stazione and Osimo, to take his third consecutive stage win: Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), Enric Mas (Movistar) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious). That stage consisted of many short, steep climbs that take a toll on leg and lung. But at the end, Roglič was the only one who had the legs, lungs and heart to win. And he was the only rider who looked as if he’d just finished a stroll in the park after finishing. Whatever he did to prepare for his first race of the year, I would like to bottle it.
He was understandably delighted. “It’s great to be back in the way we have this week,” he told journalists after the race. “I’ve enjoyed it and we can celebrate this victory. We worked hard for this.” Roglič won the GC by 18 seconds over Almeida, with Geoghegan Hart a further 5 seconds adrift.
He made a point of praising his Jumbo-Visma teammates, saying: “I may be on the podium by myself but, actually, we should be there with the whole team. The guys worked really hard all week to help me get the win and deserve it as much as I do.” And he added on Instagram: “The sea is never smooth. It takes a hell of a good team of sailors to reach the harbour.”
Someone else who gave thanks to his teammates after the race was the Alpecin-Deceuninck sprinter Jasper Philipsen who won two stages aided by strong lead-out support, headed by none other than Mathieu van der Poel. “We managed to be in a really good position thanks to all the motivation we had from the previous sprint stage [win],” he told Eurosport. “We knew we were able to do it again. The team and Mathieu again did an amazing job.”
Philipsen was so impressed by van der Poel’s lead-out work in his first stage win that he was picked up by Eurosport microphones afterwards telling his teammate, “You make it too easy.” However, he did not win the points classification. That jersey went to, yes, Roglič.
It wasn’t a successful race for all the elite riders. Roglič’s teammate Wout van Aert crashed on stage 4 when his bike got tangled with that of Tom Pidcock (Ineos-Grenadiers) with about 4 km left in the stage, as the Belgian was preparing to move up in the peloton to try and get a stage win. Neither rider suffered more than abrasions but Pidcock crashed again on the final stage and, though not seriously hurt, dropped out of the race.