Giro d'Italia
Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Roglic now faces different kind of pink jersey

With Carapaz backed by the powerful and experienced Movistar team, things suddenly have become more complicated for Roglic.

It didn’t matter if people called him out for being conservative.

So long as Primoz Roglic had his direct GC rivals behind him on the overall standings, everything was going to plan.

Movistar turned those plans upside down Saturday, and now Roglic and Jumbo-Visma have a problem.

Ecuadorian climber Richard Carapaz roared to victory and snatched the pink jersey. It’s only seven seconds ahead of Roglic, but everyone knows it’s better to defend a leader’s jersey than to try to take it back.

“The difference now is that we don’t have a pink jersey that is likely to lose it,” said Jumbo-Visma sport director Addy Engels. “Now we have a very strong Carapaz with a very strong team — that changes things.”

Up until Saturday, Roglic seemed to be on cruise control. The Slovenian had taken important gains to his most dangerous rivals in two early time trials. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), perhaps his most dangerous rival on paper, was already out of the race with a crash. Vuelta a España champion Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was struggling.

In his eyes, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) was enemy No. 1. After all, the Shark had derailed the Jumbo-Visma team before in the Giro. In 2016, Nibali attacked over the snowbound Colle dell’Agnello in a move that rattled race leader Steven Kruijswijk, then racing as LottoNL-Jumbo. Kruijswijk crashed into a snow bank and Nibali went on to win that year’s Giro.

Flash forward to 2019, and the entire team, if not Roglic, seemed fixated on Nibali. So much so that Nibali called out Roglic after negative racing in Thursday’s and Friday’s mountain stages. The Italian said the Slovenian wasn’t going to win the Giro if he kept just marking his wheel. Perhaps Nibali was right after all.

Sensing an opening in the discord between the two principal figures in the field, Movistar hatched a plan Saturday to send Carapaz up the road. Roglic stayed glued on Nibali’s wheel, and without cooperation in the GC chase group, Carapaz kept opening up ground.

So instead of having his GC rivals behind him and a pink jersey in front of him that was no legitimate threat, Roglic must now contend with the very experienced, climber-loaded Movistar team.

“There was not a lot of tactic on the climb. We were all just full-gas,” Roglic said. “Of course I am happy with the place I am.”

Roglic ended Saturday’s stage where he started, in second place.

Instead of being behind Jan Polanc (UAE-Emirates), a rider who everyone expected to fade, Roglic is now seven seconds behind Carapaz. The Ecuadorian is a unique rider everyone expects to keep improving.

“In the other end, the move by Carapaz was very strong,” Engels said. “It was always 30 seconds, and then there is no cooperation, it becomes almost two minutes.”

And with a brutal hard week of racing ahead of them, everyone knows the Giro is not over.

With three summit finales and Sunday’s rollercoaster stage still to come, figuring out the race-winning calculus is suddenly more complicated for Roglic.

A final-day time trial in Verona favors him, but Roglic certainly cannot let Carapaz and others take much more time.

“OK, we are second in GC. The Giro is still long, there is still more than one week, still the TT coming. I think it changes a bit compared to yesterday and before,” Engels said. “One day before the end of the race we have to make up time.”