For any regular cycling fan, stage 9 of the 2016 Giro d’Italia was an introduction to Primoz Roglic. An exciting 40km time-trial in Chianti was rain soaked and the conditions heavily favoured the early starters. Roglic, who had started in the opening hour, held top spot for much of the afternoon and took the win. It was a curious result but nobody paid much attention; Bob Jungels’ attempted siege on the Maglia Rosa and Vincenzo Nibali’s disappointing ride stole the headlines. The Giro continued and Roglic’s Bianchi rarely graced our screens again.
Perhaps only friends, family and fans of the FIS Continental Cup will remember Roglic’s time as a competitive ski-jumper. Nevertheless, whilst the vast majority of us didn’t know Roglic existed when he flew off ramps, we all feel very connected to that part of his career thanks to every commentator in pro cycling. “He’s not bad for a ski jumper!” and “He’s used to going downhill fast!” or even “Roglic developed this hunger for victory and intestinal fortitude during his time in ski boots” are things you may hear during any vaguely promising performance.
The Giro stage win was where it all began and he hasn’t looked back. A brilliant 2017 saw a GC victory at the Algarve, a podium at Romandie and a superb Tour de France stage win. The following year he held a scary level of form all season. He ticked off victories with ease including the classifications of Itzulia and Romandie. His performance in the Basque country is perhaps his best to date. The Tour de France was another success. He went deep into three weeks and finished a close fourth. This was his first time riding for a Grand Tour GC.
Roglic has finished in the top ten in eight of the last nine stage races he has started. The exception – last year’s Tirreno-Adriatico – can be excused through a crash on stage 2, and he won the next stage anyway. The Slovenian doesn’t settle for just top tens though. Excluding the Tour, he’s won five of the last six stage races he’s started.
That 2016 Giro win was the beginning of Roglic’s jump to the big stage. He set off down the ramp, attacked the take-off table, and spent most of 2018 flexing his power, poise and balance. Currently, all eyes are on Roglic and Grand Tour season is approaching. Can he stick the landing?
At the Tour last year he was a climbing revelation, attacking the big three and following all the right wheels. He lost a minute in the TTT and – surprisingly – another in the ITT at the race’s end. It’s difficult to believe somebody with Roglic’s skillset won’t improve for Grand Tour experience but at 29 years-old he’s taken a strange route to the top. It’s for this reason he may not start either Giro or Tour as favourite but I think we’ll see him on at least the podium this year.