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Roglič Ekes Out Dauphiné Win, Remco Has Mountain to Climb for the Tour

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

Primož Roglič had seized the Critérium du Dauphiné by the scruff of the neck in the two mountain stages leading up to Sunday’s stage 8 finale. He led the GC by over a minute, with the least difficult of the three mountain stages left to ride. It was clear to everyone that he would complete his hat trick of wins on Sunday and send a signal to his future Tour de France opponents that he was back to his best.

But something unexpected happened to the BORA-hansgrohe leader on that final climb to the finish line on the Plateau des Glières (9.3km @ 7.3%). When the rider sitting in second place in the GC behind Roglič, Matteo Jorgenson (Visma–Lease a Bike), broke away from the small lead group with 6km to go, Roglič asked his legs for more power, but they had nothing left.

He had already lost his main mountain support rider, Aleksandr Vlasov, earlier on the climb. Vlasov had given everything on the preceding two stages – and so, apparently, had the 34-year-old Slovenian. As Jorgenson, Carlos Rodríguez (INEOS Grenadiers) and the astonishing Derek Gee (Israel–Premier Tech) accelerated up the mountain, Roglič gradually lost ground and his lead over Jorgenson, 1:02 at the start of the stage, slowly melted.

With a 10-second bonus given to the winner of the stage, Jorgenson had to beat Roglič by at least 52 seconds. As the American motored up the slope, accompanied now only by Rodríguez, the gap grew to 30 seconds, then 40 – and a second Dauphiné victory seemed about to slip out of the BORA leader’s grasp. But Rodríguez beat Jorgenson to the finish line, and Roglič had just enough left in the tank to hold on to his victory – by a scant 8 seconds.

After the race, he told Eurosport that he hadn’t expected his victory to be so close. “It’s quite crazy to be able to win the Dauphiné with everything that happened in-between,” he said – and added: “Beautiful.” He admitted that he had “definitely” suffered on that final climb, as well on the other two mountain stages. But he was upbeat. “This was something we needed, for the team,” he said, but refused to be drawn out about what this performance meant for his chances in the Tour.

As for the other co-favorite for this Dauphiné, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quickstep), he could not keep up with Roglič or Jorgenson on any of the climbs. On stage 6, he lost 42 seconds to the Slovenian on the slopes of the Collet d’Allevard (11.2km @ 8.4%), and lost the yellow jersey he had taken over after the stage 4 time trial. On stage 7, he ceded 1:46 on the Samoëns (9.9km @ 9%), and tumbled off the podium.

In the final stage, he finished 10 seconds behind the faltering Roglič and 58 seconds behind the winner, finishing seventh in the GC, 2:25 behind Roglič and 1:51 behind Gee, who finished third and revealed unexpected climbing chops.

To his credit, Evenepoel kept pedaling on the climbs and limited his losses. And he was far from downbeat, explaining after the Samoëns climb that his aim in the Dauphiné had been to win the ITT, which he did, and improve his climbing.

“Finishes like this one, you need to be at 100% to perform,” he told journalists. “It was a climb with 10% gradients, a climb like that doesn’t lie. Like I said at the beginning of the week, if I get dropped, then I’ll keep pushing to improve my shape and that’s what I did.” But his takeaway was dubious: “A tough day, 4,000 meters of vertical climbing. I didn’t do too badly in terms of the Tour.”

The problem for the former world road race champion is that the more difficult the climb was, the more time he lost, and the Dauphiné mountain stages, hard as they were, pale in comparison to some of the mountain stages of the Tour. For example, stage 11 has nearly 5,000m of climbing, four very difficult category 1 ascents, with average slopes of between 7.8 and 9.6%, and a Beyond Category (HC) summit finish on the Plateau de Beille (15.8km @ 7.9%) – on a route that covers nearly 200km! Now that will be a tough day.

As for Roglič, it appears that whatever the acclimatization problems he and his new team had after his move from the former Jumbo-Visma, they have been solved. His team was stellar in its control of the race once its leader had the yellow jersey, and Jai Hindley and, especially, Vlasov were strong for him in the mountains.

But they were apparently short of full fitness, with both riders having emptied the tanks on the two most difficult climbs, only to falter on the easiest. That Roglič was beaten to the finish line by Jorgenson and Gee, who have not, until now, been known for their climbing prowess, must be worrying.

This edition of the Dauphiné provided a few surprises bordering on shocks, none more so than the emergence of Gee as a mountain man. He registered a superb win in the very hilly stage 3, which had a summit finish atop Les Estables (3.8km @ 4.9%), then showed that he had the legs to deal with much harder ascents. His podium finish in this difficult stage race opens up interesting possibilities for his future and his team.

Jorgenson provided some much-needed good news for his Visma–Lease a Bike team, with his excellent climbing and his second-place GC finish, by a mere 8 seconds to an established Grand Tour winner. His performance will surely raise spirits in the team, which has gone from one disaster to another this year. This doesn’t mean that he is ready to cross swords with the likes of Tadej Pogačar, but it suggests that Visma have a GC rider with an interesting future.

But there was also bad news for the team. Its premier support rider in the mountains, and last year’s Vuelta winner, Sepp Kuss, dropped out of the race before the start of the final stage. The team declared on X, “Sepp Kuss will not start the final stage of the Dauphiné. He has not been feeling one hundred percent in the past stages. With his preparation for the Tour de France in mind, it was decided to take the necessary rest.” Hopefully for Visma, if Jonas Vingegaard is deemed fit enough to ride the Tour, Kuss will be fit enough to lead him. But nothing seems certain at this point.

Hats off also to Vlasov, who was indispensable for Roglič on the toughest slopes and had enough gas left, despite his weakness in the final stage, to finish sixth in the GC. That suggests that not only has he embraced being his leader’s top support rider in the Tour, but his commitment to the role has made him a better rider and a possible stand-in if Roglič is forced to retire.

Finally, a word about that mass crash on stage 5 that took down most of the peloton and led to organizers neutralizing the stage. There were an astonishing 60 abandons during the race, almost all of them after the mass crash and most of them directly or indirectly as a result of it. It was the second such incident this year and follows the crash in the Itzulia Basque Country which injured Vingegaard, Roglič and Evenepoel, among others, and seriously affected this racing season. Something drastic needs to be undertaken before this type of incident becomes the norm, rather than the freakish exception it still is.