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For the last decade or so the winner of the Tour de France has been asked about the use of performance-enhancing drugs due to the sport’s long history with PED use. In the last 15 years, the Tour weathered multiple PED scandals that saw stage and overall winners stripped of their titles.
When asked if he was competing clean, Roglič answered the question with a matter-of-fact tone.
“Yeah, I am, eh? So I have nothing to hide. It’s me,” he said.
Whatever further energy the quiet Roglič wanted to give to the question was saved for the brutal race across the Jura Mountains, which saw the peloton tackle three categorized climbs, including the Hors Categorie summit finish to Grand Colombier.
Roglič and his Jumbo-Visma team set a swift tempo up the climbs, and the relentless pace finally torpedoed Roglic’s biggest pre-race rival, Egan Bernal (Team Ineos).
Bernal slipped off the back at the base of the Grand Colombier and lost 7:22 to Roglič by the top of the stage. Roglič looked bulletproof up the soaring climb, but in the final push to the line he was bested by countryman Tadej Pogačar.
Pogačar attacked out of the main group of rivals and held off Roglič for the stage win and four bonus seconds on GC. While Roglič was happy to open some daylight between himself and the other riders inside the top-10 on GC, he couldn’t hide his disappointment of the missed stage win and bonus seconds.
“He was stronger — I am a little disappointed but he was stronger, so I support him,” Roglič said
The action of the day means Roglič and Jumbo-Visma must now focus the lion’s share of their attention on Pogačar over the coming stages. Pogačar is a Tour de France rookie who has shown no hesitation to attack for time bonuses and stage victories, and Sunday’s win was his second of this year’s race.
The 21-year-old Pogačar was also the most aggressive rider in the Pyrenees, as well as in the Massif Central, where his attacks up to Puy Mary on stage 13 vaulted him into second place overall.
On several occasions now Pogačar and Roglič have separated themselves from the other GC rivals on the highest mountains. On the final push to Puy Mary, Pogačar even told Roglič that they should attack and drive the pace to the line.
After Sunday’s stage Roglič was asked about his relationship with his young countryman. He and Pogačar are rivals and friends, he said.
“Yeah, we are rivals. We are I think also friends coming from the same country,” Roglič said. “No matter that, on the bike we all want to win. He wants to win and I want to win. So, for sure we always fight in the last.”
Over the past two seasons, Roglič has shown himself to be one of the top riders in the sport, if somewhat cagy in his interactions with the press. Roglič is careful not to identify his rivals in his post-race comments, and instead focuses his quotes and efforts on the progress of his own team. Indeed, following stage 15 Roglič was asked about Bernal’s implosion on the Grand Colombier, and Roglič said that he was not focused on any other rider than himself.
“I don’t really bother with others,” he said. “Who is doing well, or bad, but we have to keep the focus on ourselves. That’s the only way we can manage.”
Then, in the post-race press conference, Roglič was again asked if fans could believe his performance. Without hesitating, he said they could, and said that he had faith in the race’s anti-doping measures.
“Yeah, I think they are doing a lot of controls. Saturday, a little after 6 p.m, I had a full control,” Roglič said. “I think it’s really nothing to hide, and at least looking from my side, you can definitely trust me.”