CUNEO, Italy (VN) — The first major climb of the 2019 Giro d’Italia revealed some chinks in Primoz Roglic’s armor in Thursday’s teaser ahead of the first summit finale.
“It was the first big climb. I didn’t feel really good but in the end it was okay,” Roglic said. “I was good enough to stay with the other guys.”
Good enough is good enough right now.
Roglic finished safely inside the main favorites group as GC outsiders Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) went on an early flier to claw back 28 seconds.
There wasn’t enough “there” to cause the alarm bells to start ringing, but a few things stood out. First off, Roglic did not have any teammates with him on the climb and nor did the team have a rider in the day’s main breakaway. Roglic also tailed off the back of the favorites bunch, and never took pulls on the front.
“It wasn’t really a big problem,” Roglic said of his isolation. “I think my teammates are doing okay. Tomorrow is a new day and we’ll see how it goes.”
Of course, as the effective leader amongst the favorites, Roglic does not need to take pulls, but his rivals noticed how the stage played out.
“He was always on the defensive,” Bahrain’ Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali said of Roglic. “It was a very passive race on his part. All of the leaders were taking regular turns on the front but he wasn’t. But that might have been a tactical decision that he preferred to ride like that.”
Right now, with his commanding head-start to the likes to Nibali and others thanks to two time trial stage victories, Roglic doesn’t have to do anything except finish in the GC group. It might not be the most exciting racing style, but it’s highly effective in a grand tour. And with three very hard stages on tap over the weekend, and forecasters calling for bad weather, other riders were content to follow the action.
In fact, many expected the main GC riders to remain relatively quiet Thursday after a series of long stages. Friday sees the Giro’s first major mountaintop finale at Lago Serrù, followed up by a short 131km and potentially explosive five-climb stage to Courmayer. Sunday’s 232km stage to Como traces the finale of Giro di Lombardia in what could deliver more surprises.
Landa and Lopez, who both took a hit to Roglic in the time trials, couldn’t afford to wait. Astana set up Lopez and Landa gladly piled on. The pair had teammates up the road to pull them on the flats over the final 20km and they gained a small reward of 28 seconds.
“The attack wasn’t planned, but I have to try to take back time whenever I can,” Landa said. “We got a bit of time back and I had good sensations. It’s something, but I am very far back. There are a lot of mountains coming up, so let’s see if I have good sensations.”
Roglic ended the day with his lead fully intact. Perhaps he and Jumbo-Visma were playing poker on the first mountain test, but that would be a dangerous game to play going forward.
Astana, Movistar, Bahrain-Merida and Mitchelton-Scott all had riders positioned across the day’s action, either putting riders in the early breakaway or moving riders up the road on the climb.
“It was only the first mountain stage,” Landa said. “Everyone was eyeing each other up, but I think it’s too early to make conclusions.”
Roglic seemed unfazed by Thursday’s movement. He admits he doesn’t have a team to control the entire race. Lopez and Landa are still far back, and others will be forced to help in the chase if they try to move again. With his significant lead to Nibali and the others, he can afford to race defensively.
“For me, the most important thing is to have the jersey in Verona,” Roglic said. “I didn’t feel so good, so I wasn’t going to attack and go solo. But it was, for me, a good day.”
Good enough is good enough, right now.