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Giro d'Italia

Roglic piles the pressure on Giro rivals

With another time trial still to come after the Giro's mountains, Roglic's rivals have to both erase their current deficit and then put even more time into the Slovenian.

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SAN MARINO, Italy (VN) — Sunday’s time trial reconfirmed what everyone already feared: Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) is going to be very hard to beat in this year’s Giro d’Italia.

The Slovenian powered to his second stage victory against the clock in this Giro to take so much time on his direct GC rivals that the race for the podium could begin even before the race hits its first mountain stage.

That might be putting the cart before the horse, especially with a string of hard mountain stages looming in the final week, but Roglic took a minute or more out of all his direct rivals.

“Of course I wanted to take some time in the time trial, so I am happy about that,” Roglic said. “It’s important to take advantage when you can on your rivals.”

Rain turned Sunday’s decisive time trial into a soggy affair, and that probably meant that Roglic didn’t take as much as time as he could have. The Slovenian did not take any risk on the corners and saved his legs for the final climb.

That conservative tactic in the wet meant that riders like Vincenzo Nibali and Simon Yates were hovering relatively close to Roglic on the flatter first half of the race. Once the course turned upward, Roglic hit the accelerator.

“I went quite carefully on the first part with the rain and the corners,” Roglic said. “I tried to make a difference on the hard parts.”

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) was closest among the GC rivals, at 1:00 slower. Nibali rode well, ceding just 1:05. Those two are now in second and third, with Nibali at 1:44 and Mollema at 1:55 behind Roglic in the “virtual” standing. Overnight leader Valerio Conti (UAE-Emirates) defended pink, still 1:50 ahead of Roglic. Conti should carry the pink jersey into the mountains next weekend if a big break does not pull clear.

“With the rain, it was difficult to take risks,” Nibali said. “Today was a very hard stage. We are keeping Roglic close, but we haven’t even reached the mountains yet. A lot can still happen in this Giro.”

The biggest losers on the day were Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana). Yates lost 3:11 and fell to 3:46 back, a disaster for the Englishman who was second to Roglic in the Bologna time trial. Lopez lost time as expected, but certainly more than the Colombian would have liked, ceding 3:45 to slot in at 4:29 behind Roglic.

Yates and Lopez will need something extraordinary to get back in the race, but riders like Mollema and Nibali can take confidence that they have the experience and legs to go the distance for three weeks.

Everyone’s hope will be that Roglic and his relatively young fleet of supporters for the mountain stages will simply run out of gas or make a big mistake. Despite winning all three stage races he’s started this spring, Roglic has never led a major grand tour until this year’s Giro.

With Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) already out of the race, the climbers are already at a major disadvantage to Roglic.

The problem for the likes of Nibali is that Roglic is just as good in the mountains as he is in time trials. The Slovenian is the rare GC rider who can crush the time trials and race to not only defend, but attack in the mountains.

Roglic’s first career stage win at the Tour de France came in an attack across the Alps, winning stage 17 ahead of the GC favorites at Serre-Chevalier in 2017.

Yet winning a mountain stage in the Tour when you’re not a direct GC threat is quite different from racing day-in, day-out. Roglic was more than one hour off the yellow jersey when he won in the Alps in 2017.

Of course, Roglic doesn’t have to win anything in the mountains. He can mark the wheels and conserve his energy to try to hang on during the Giro’s final week.

“It’s still better to have some advantage than a disadvantage,” Roglic said. “There’s a long way to go.”

And to make things even more complicated for his would-be rivals, this year’s Giro concludes with a final-day 17km time trial in Verona.

So to beat Roglic, rivals will not only need to erase the deficit they already have to the Slovenian, but pile on even more to give them a head start in stage 21.