Ace descender Primoz Roglic celebrated a Tour de France stage victory on Friday, but some of his rivals were less than pleased with the way things played out on the run-in to Laruns. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) both accused the TV motorbike of helping the LottoNL-Jumbo rider get his gap in the waning kilometers of the race.
“I’m f—ing disappointed,” Dumoulin said plainly after stage 19, adding that it was “ridiculous” that he got dropped on a fast, straight section of road.
Roglic, Dumoulin, and Martin were all part of the lead group on the road after early escapee Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) was reeled in following the summit of the Col d’Aubisque, with yellow jersey Geraint Thomas and his Sky teammate Chris Froome among the selection as well. It didn’t take long for Roglic to prove his descending chops on the final mountain of this Tour de France.
The 28-year-old escaped the front of the group early on the downhill, putting pressure on less savvy descenders like Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and even his own teammate Steven Kruijswijk.
With around six kilometers left to race, Roglic got the gap he needed and was hurtling toward the finish. He built on the lead and then held it all the way to the line.
“Primoz was the strongest today, and I have a lot of respect for his victory, but he was flying downhill, and eventually I got dropped on a straight part just because he was on his tube and full in the slipstream of the motorbike,” Dumoulin said. “I was sprinting to his wheel and I couldn’t get any closer. I just got dropped on the only straight part of the downhill. It’s ridiculous really.”
Martin, a frequent critic of TV motos, agreed. Like Dumoulin, the Irishman gave Roglic his due but registered his frustration with the situation nonetheless.
“Roglic got away on the straight part of the downhill. TV motorbikes again,” he said. “It’s not his fault, it’s just the way it is.”
The race leader, meanwhile, acknowledged that Roglic’s escape was an explosive one, but was hesitant to point any fingers.
“The way he did get the gap was a little surprising,” Thomas said. “I was concentrating on the corners, following Tom’s wheel. There has been an issue with motorbikes getting too close, but I didn’t see it.”
For his part, Roglic disagreed with assertions that he got a boost from any motor vehicles on the road into Laruns.
“All riders have the same possibilities on the road,” he said.
After all, Roglic did manage to grow his gap considerably as soon as he was off the front, combining excellent descending skills with the big engine that saw him take silver in the world time trial championships last year. Once he was clear, he gradually extended his advantage over the ensuing kilometers, finishing 19 seconds ahead of Thomas, who sprinted across the line at the head of the chasers to take second on the day.
“I know that going downhill when you get some gap it is hard to close it. When I got the gap and I pushed really harder,” Roglic said. “When I heard I had 10 seconds and it was five kilometers, I tried to give it all to the end, and it was worth it.”
“Worth it” is an understatement. Roglic’s ride saw him collect his second career Tour stage win and propelled him to third overall at the Tour de France. That puts him in the driver’s seat for a podium spot — if he can just defend his position in Saturday’s time trial.
Andrew Hood contributed to this story from Laruns, France.