RAVENNA, Italy (VN) — Despite being in an ideal position at the mid-way point of the Giro d’Italia, Primoz Roglic knows nothing is won yet.
The Slovenian has been on a tear so far in this Giro, winning two time trial stages and taking important gains on his direct rivals. Yet the Jumbo-Visma leader is the first to admit the real battle has yet to begin.
It’s in the mountains where this Giro will be won or lost, and Roglic isn’t taking anything for granted.
“There is a lot that can still happen,” he said. “I prefer to be in front of my competitors. So far, I am still healthy and in one piece, and looking forward to the next days.”
Roglic is in an enviable position as the Giro inevitably pedals toward the first clashes in the mountains. His two stage victories so far have come against the clock, and there is one more waiting in the final stage in Verona if the pink jersey is still up for grabs.
His rivals haven’t been so lucky. Egan Bernal (Ineos) crashed out even before the race started. Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin is gone as well, victim of a crash in stage 4. Vuelta a España champion Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Colombian sensation Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) both gave up considerable time Sunday, leaving them more than three minutes each behind Roglic. Only Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) are within two minutes.
His rivals know they must attack to try to wrestle away his margin. Roglic knows he’s in the driver’s seat.
“I am in mostly focused on the moment,” Roglic said Sunday at a press conference. “Today I am in the press conference, and tomorrow on the road. I am only thinking about the present time.”
It’s that matter-of-fact attitude that could help Roglic negotiate the pressure that will come in the looming mountains and help withstand the barrage of certain attacks from the likes of Nibali, Yates and López.
“This Giro is far from over. In fact, we have not climbed one mountain yet,” said Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt White. “If there is a race that can have dramatic swings, it’s this one.”
What could topple Roglic? Take your pick: a crash, an illness or bad legs at a bad moment. Even the smallest lapse of concentration can upend a Giro. Or simply bad luck of being caught up in the wrong place in a pileup. Bad weather could play a major factor.
So far, despite hitting the deck in an early stage pileup last week, Roglic is avoiding trouble. He counts on experienced Jumbo-Visma riders to help him in the transition stages. Some have raised alarms about Roglic’s relatively young fleet of support riders for the mountains, but the team is up for the challenge.
“Everyone will have problems later in the race,” Roglic said. “I don’t want to think about it. It is still day-by-day, and I want to focus on the problems that are there at that moment.”
The Giro is renowned for its surprise finishes. Last year, Chris Froome pulled the cat out of the hat on a solo attack over the Colle delle Finestre. That was just the latest in a long history of Giro’s that looked to be under control only to spiral out of it.
All of the main protagonists are keen to point out this Giro has yet to climb a major mountain summit. The peloton gets its first taste Thursday before Friday’s first mountaintop finish.
“When does the Giro end?” asked Astana general manager Alexander Vinokourov. “In Verona. We lost the battle [Sunday], but not the war.”
So far, Roglic is winning the battle and the war. Things will heat up this weekend with a pair of challenging mountain stages in the Italian Alps.
The peloton will get its first glimpse of who has the legs to truly attack Roglic as well as see if Roglic has the legs to fend them off.
Roglic is relishing the moment, and seems poised to take to his rivals in the mountains just as he has in the time trials.
“I am really enjoying that result,” Roglic said of his win Sunday. “I was looking back at the nice time trial we did, without making any mistakes, I am proud of that. You always want to be as good as possible — maybe I could have a half-an-hour? — but I am happy and pleased where I am now.”
The Giro is littered with riders who were glowing under early success only to get kicked into the gutter. Roglic and Jumbo-Visma don’t want to join that club.