After suffering yet another huge disappointment at this month’s Tour in what has been a career blighted by disasters, Roglič found sweet redemption with a huge ride on Tokyo’s speedway, blasting the world’s best into the rear-view.
Roglič saw his all-or-nothing bid for the Tour’s yellow jersey come unstuck this summer. Wednesday’s Olympic victory was a result so well-timed that even the sometimes-stoic Slovenian was able to savor it.
“It’s super nice. It’s beautiful, this thing is quite heavy actually. I didn’t know that,” he joked after being handed his medal.
Roglič rolled down the start ramp in the midst of a who’s-who of TT specialists Wednesday but left them all reeling, clocking the fastest time over the first of the two circuits and expanding the margin to over one minute through the final.
Roglič didn’t slow down when he blazed across the finish line – just as if to be sure nothing went wrong.
— UCI (@UCI_cycling) July 28, 2021
“It’s super hard [to keep calm] when things are not going the way you would like to,” he said after his ride. “In the end, I worked hard and I always try to keep believing in it that still it’s me, it’s Primož, and everything is always possible every day.
“I went out and I had nothing to lose. I went all out from kilometer zero and I managed to come to the finish. That was my job and I did it good. In the end, it was good enough.”
Roglič’s summer had looked in tatters a little more than three weeks ago.
After disappearing from view through late spring with a risky no-race approach to the Tour, the stakes couldn’t have been higher when he lined up for Brittany’s Grand Départ.
Last year, Roglič lost the yellow jersey on the very last day of racing. This year, he ripped up the script and left no stone unturned as he prepared for France to the finest detail.
When Roglič crashed on stage three and abandoned six days later, it was just another misfortune in a long string of disappointments. The 31-year-old had already seen this year’s Paris-Nice and last summer’s Criterium du Dauphine and Tour swept from beneath his feet due to crashes or crises.
Roglič promised he’d rebound for the Olympics when he called time on this summer’s Tour. He did that and then some with his crushing victory Wednesday.
“It’s just incredibly nice after all the hard things that happened in the last moments to me,” he said. “It has paid off all the work that we put in from my side, from the family side, and the people all around me. Today I managed to win the gold medal and become Olympic champion.”
Does an Olympic gold compensate for a missed yellow jersey?
It’s a tough question for anyone to answer, and Roglič wasn’t going to give his opinion either.
“In cycling, it’s stupid to compare things. Everything is super hard to win. Even your home race behind your house,” he said. “Every achievement is special, and this one is super special and I’m really happy.”
Roglič will be looking to defend his Vuelta a España title for the second year in a row next month in what could be a match-up with Pogačar and Giro d’Italia champ Egan Bernal. Spain will be painted a spectacular gold, pink and yellow.
Stepping from Pogačar’s shadow
Roglič’s redemptive ride sees him step from the growing shadow of countryman and Tour-winner Pogačar.
The Tour had been touted as a two-way match-up between the Slovenian supremos. When Roglič crashed out and Pogačar flattened the field, the Jumbo-Visma ace was soon forgotten about.
Just like when Roglič was usurped at the last in the 2020 Tour, Pogačar stole the headlines both in Slovenia and around the world. Second-place could have been nowhere.
The post-Tour Pogačar hype didn’t cool down through this weekend. Pogačar blasted to bronze in Saturday’s road race while Roglič didn’t feature after struggling with a cramp.
The diverging trajectories left many to question why Pogačar hadn’t been handed the one berth available to Slovenia for Wednesday’s Olympic test.
Roglič answered very loudly.
💚We couldn't be more proud of @rogla, a wonderboy of Slovenia sport and a unique sports phenomenon! @TeamSlovenia @kolesarskazveza #ifeelslovenia #teamslovenia #tokyo2020 #imamoto #imamozlato #olympics #cyclingroad pic.twitter.com/sZdbnGz3r7
— Feel Slovenia (@SloveniaInfo) July 28, 2021