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Why did Roglic give away the leader’s jersey?

After leading the Giro d'Italia since the start, Primoz Roglic and his Jumbo-Visma team let the pink jersey ride away from them on Thursday's sixth stage

L’AQUILA, Italy (VN) — The Giro d’Italia’s pink jersey or maglia rosa is one of the most recognised garments in cycling, so why would a cyclist and his team let the race lead slip away?

Cyclists in the 2019 Giro d’Italia explained the thinking behind Primoz Roglic and his Team Jumbo-Visma’s decision to say “ciao” to the breakaway and pink jersey on stage six. Instead of still standing on top of the classification, the overall favourite Roglic now sits outside the top ten overall, 5:24 behind race leader Valerio Conti (UAE-Emirates).

“Because they want the lead in the final; they want to win the race at the end,” was rival Simon Yates‘ (Mitchelton-Scott) straightforward answer to VeloNews. “It is a smart move. Well, it is a smart move if we can get rid of the guys in front of us again!”

Yates knows this well. He led the Giro d’Italia for 13 days in 2018 only to see Chris Froome take over with a couple of days to go. “It takes a lot of time and energy to have the responsibility of leading the race,” Yates said.

Conti leads the race, but in the ‘virtual classification’ of favorites, Roglic leads Yates by 35 seconds and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) by 39 seconds.

“For them, it’s eyes on the prize,” Brent Bookwalter (Mitchelton-Scott) explained.

“It’s a long three weeks, and they’re looking towards Verona. To control [the race early on] is just too much energy to justify the expenditure.”

“You have to look at it in the big picture of the race and how you are managing the energy among the team,” added Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma).

Kuss was part of the Jumbo-Visma train easing off the accelerator heading towards San Giovanni Rotondo on Thursday that allowed Conti the pink jersey lead.

“Some days it’s better to have the jersey because you want to have control anyway, but some days it’s better not to have that pressure on the team of having to control the race over the course of three weeks,” continued Kuss. “That really takes it out of everybody and you need every single rider on the team at the end of the race.”

Australian Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) is working for sprinter Caleb Ewan in this 2019 Giro. However, having raced 28 grand tours, he understands only too well why Jumbo-Visma waved goodbye to the pink jersey.

“They had the exposure from it and the problem is you have to ride on the front to protect it, and now they can sit back and have a nice easy day,” Hansen said. “And with the next few days it’s going to be controlled by the sprinters and it’s a bit of a waste of energy for them. So it’s a smart move that gave it away and they can have a few rest days before the mountain stages.”

Roglic is one of the star favorites for the race having won the overall in all three races he entered this spring: the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour de Romandie. However, the risk is that he never puts on the maglia rosa again.

“If you weren’t aiming for the overall, then OK, you’d try to have it as much as possible. But he wants to wear it in the final, in the last stage,” said Hansen. “And with this intention, he doesn’t want it now. So he definitely has the confidence to win it overall.”