The peloton tackled punishing mountains on stages 8 and 9, and on both days TV cameras show bulging crowds of fans standing along the roadside. The fans stood at odds with the Tour de France’s COVID-19 safety measures, which were aimed at keeping people away from the race.
“Sometimes on the climbs, also yesterday on [the Col de] Marie-Blanque, it feels like the same as it was before — having no road, no space, with all the people around,” Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) said. “Maybe [fans] should try to watch out for their own health, and also in the end the health of us all.”
Roglič’s comments followed a question about COVID-19 security, and how different this year’s Tour de France felt for the riders amid the rules governing health and sanitary measures throughout the race. Like all teams at this year’s race, Jumbo-Visma is forbidden from contact with the outside world. Riders and team staffers are sequestered in a ‘bubble’ away from family members, friends, and even media throughout the event.
Riders must wear masks when not racing, and everyone is encouraged to use hand sanitizer and scrutinize their own health on a regular basis.
“We all need to follow the rules, even if sometimes they seem stupid,” Roglič said. “Also, for me to wear all the time mask, this and that, but we do a favor to ourselves because in that case we can race, and people can work like, normal and not be in quarantine.”
Roglič holds a tenuous grasp on the Tour’s yellow jersey after taking it from Adam Yates during Sunday’s climbing stage to Laruns. He leads defending champion Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) by just 21 seconds in the overall, and the entirety of his lead has come from time bonuses throughout the race. Roglič took a bonus by winning stage 4 to Orcières-Merlette, and padded his lead with another bonus with his second-place finish on Sunday.
Roglič credited his Jumbo-Visma teammates with advancing him into the yellow jersey and admitted that the toughest stages of the Tour have yet to come.
“There are still some stages to come [in] front of us. With all the guys we’re super motivated for the days to come but it’s still just the start of the Tour,” he said. “More things will happen, especially with the start of this week and then we will finalize the whole picture in the third week after the time trial.”
Roglič’s strength at this year’s Tour wasn’t unexpected after his dominating rides at the Critérium du Dauphiné, where he won a mountain stage and looked stronger than Bernal on the soaring climbs. A crash on the race’s fourth stage knocked him out of the race entirely and forced Roglič to take several days off of the bike. Roglič said he didn’t fully commit to racing the Tour de France until four days before the race began in Nice.
“The crash in the Dauphiné wasn’t the way that I planned things coming into the Tour because I had a lot of pain. After a few days, it’s normally okay but I had to make a last-minute decision, last Tuesday, that I would go to the Tour,” he said. “I was then confident entering the Tour, that with some luck, I could come through the first few days.”
Roglič and Jumbo-Visma must now defend the jersey from a short list of contenders. Bernal appears to be getting stronger with every stage, and his Ineos Grenadiers team is amongst the strongest in the race. Nairo Quintana lost 11 seconds on Sunday’s stage in the Pyrénées, but the Colombian has shown signs of brilliance on long climbs this year.
And the biggest rival could be Roglič’s own countryman Tadej Pogačar, who attacked up and over the Col de Peyresourde on stage 8 and then won stage 9.
Roglič said that seeing Pogačar score such big results is both a joy and a threat.
“Nobody could go with him [on Saturday] and [on Sunday] he won — he was really strong, so yeah, for me it is still beautiful to see two guys from Slovenia riding bikes hard here in France,” Roglič said. “So crazy things [are] happening. To have a small nation — we are 2 million people — [with] the two best riders in the moment in the world. He’s a super nice guy, but not like we say, ‘Today you win, now you win.’ It is a fight between us, but also, on the other hand, big respect.”