• Country

Roglič Joins BORA-Hansgrohe in Search of Elusive Tour de France Win

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

The other shoe has finally fallen. The German team BORA-Hansgrohe has confirmed rumours that it had signed three-time Vuelta winner Primož Roglič to a contract of “more than one year,” team manager Ralph Denk told journalists during a virtual press conference on Friday. This year’s Giro d’Italia winner will be BORA-Hansgrohe’s leader in next year’s Tour de France where he will almost certainly be facing his long-time Jumbo-Visma teammate Jonas Vingegaard.

In a written press statement, Denk said, “Eight years ago, Primož almost joined us as a neo-pro. Now he comes to us as a pro with a long list of victories that very few others have achieved.” He went on to say that the team now wants to “leave our mark on the big races,” and added: “For us, the decisive factor was not what has been achieved, but what lies ahead…. Primož appreciates the strength of our squad and knows the great potential of his future teammates. I am convinced that his personality will inspire the entire team because he is a leader with the will to win.”

Roglič finished third in Saturday’s Il Lombardia, his final race for Jumbo-Visma, the team he represented for eight years. During that time he won 74 races, far more than any other Jumbo rider in the team’s history. The victories included three Vueltas, this year’s Giro d’Italia, Paris-Nice, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the Critérium du Dauphiné and two victories in the Tour of the Basque Country, the Tour de Romandie and the Tirreno-Adriatico. He also won 19 individual Grand Tour stages and is the reigning Olympic ITT champion.

Roglič joins a team that includes last year’s Giro winner Jai Hindley and Aleksandr Vlasov, who won the Tour de Romandie last year. Both are excellent climbers, but probably not strong enough to win the Tour, so one or both of them could work for the Slovenian in his quest to defeat Vingegaard, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and perhaps Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) in next year’s Tour. Roglič, who turns 34 on October 29, has never won the Tour, while BORA-Hansgrohe has never won a Grand Tour title.

Primož Roglič
Roglič at the 2023 Il Lombardia. © Profimedia

In a statement accompanying the press release, Roglič said, “I am looking forward to this step, even though a team change is kind of like new territory for me. The good memories of when we met years ago made the talks easy. But the decisive factor was that the team is really motivated to work with me and that we hold the same ideas.”

One of the reasons for the moves on both sides was surely the proposed merger of Soudal-QuickStep with Jumbo-Visma, creating a super-team with potential winners in all aspects of road racing. However, according to a report on Friday by Sporza, it appears that the much-anticipated and much-written-about merger may not take place. The publication quoted a Jumbo-Visma spokesperson as saying, “This afternoon the team was informed that there will be no merger. It was one of our options that we explored.” But no official statement to that effect has been made by either team.

For Roglič, the move makes him the undisputed leader of a strong road team that could help him finally achieve Tour glory. The German former road racing star Jens Voigt told Eurosport before the signing was announced, “Roglič hears the biological clock ticking. At Jumbo, the younger and, at the moment, also strongest rider, Jonas Vingegaard, will probably always be the captain. With BORA, on the other hand, he would be guaranteed the number one spot and could once again attack his big lifelong dream, the Tour de France. The change would make absolute sense for Roglič in the current situation.”

For BORA, the signing turns them overnight into a major Grand Tour player, almost on a par with Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates, because they now have in their ranks one of the three current riders, with Pogačar and Vingegaard, who have won multiple Grand Tours. It also sets up a delicious scenario for 2024, when we could see Roglič, Vingegaard, Pogačar and Evenepoel all vying for the biggest prize in road racing.

Though Roglič finished third in his final appearance in Jumbo-Visma’s yellow and black colours, his final year with the team was an undisputed triumph, as he was an integral part of the team’s greatest ever season, perhaps the greatest season ever by any team, when they became the first team to win all three Grand Tours in a calendar year.

“We wrote great stories together and I have wonderful memories of them,” Roglič said at the end of the Lombardia. “I’m glad [the season] is over. There were a lot of things going on around me, but I still gave it my all on the bike. So I can’t regret that.”