IL DE RE, France (VN) — Primož Roglič confirmed the obvious Tuesday — he is racing for time bonuses.
The Jumbo-Visma rider can thank time bonuses for the 21-second gap he holds to Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) going into the second half of the Tour de France. Without them, they’d be tied on time.
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After finishing safely in the bunch Tuesday to defend his first full day in yellow, Roglič said time bonuses are a key part of the team’s strategy.
“I think definitely I try to take as much time bonuses as possible,” Roglič said. “We’ll see at the end in Paris how the seconds will be and in whose favor.”
Roglič’s comments come after the Slovenian and his Jumbo-Visma team have been charging hard for time bonuses so far in this Tour.
Roglič won 10 seconds with victory in stage 4, and then picked up 11 more seconds Sunday — five at a mid-stage bonus on the Marie-Blanque and six more with second at the finish line in Laruns.
Bernal — who admitted that he needs to attack to take time on Roglič going into the time trial in the Vosges — has finished on equal time with Roglič each stage.
Finish-line time bonuses for stage-winners has long been a part of Tour history. Race director Christian Prudhomme took them out for a few editions, but re-introduced them after some said the race lacked spark.
Last year, the Tour added mountaintop bonuses on select climbs. This year, there are eight mid-stage summits that see bonuses in play.
“We like to have the time bonuses in the race,” said Tour race director Thierry Gouvenou. “It’s a reward for riders who liven up the race.”
Some wonder, however, if this year’s Tour de France could be decided by time bonuses.
Bonus or not
Most expect bigger gaps in the Alps and in the final time trial will make the time bonuses inconsequential to the final outcome.
“At this point of the race, it looks like they have a big impact,” said EF Pro Cycling sport director Charly Wegelius. “I am not sure if I would super keen if a Tour de France winner was decided on the fact that he had been a little bit quicker at certain stage finishes, and get seconds here or there.”
Wegelius said the thinking behind time bonuses is “sound,” especially if race organizers want to liven up the race and see changes in leadership.
In more traditional Tour courses, which often opened with a short prologue, sprinters would use finish-line time bonuses to chip away at the lead and eventually grab the yellow jersey before the Tour turns into the mountains.
In this year’s atypical Tour design, the race opened with steep climbs. The GC favorites have been attacking each other, and it’s obvious that the time bonuses are altering tactics.
“Whether it’s on the finish line or in the mountains, the bonuses are important in this Tour,” said UAE-Emirates sport director Allan Peiper. His rider Tadej Pogačar has also scooped up time bonuses to claw his way back into the top-10.
“The GC riders know they are there, and they are going to be racing for them,” Peiper said. “They will make a difference, and we’ll see how much on the more decisive stages.”
With the peloton more equal than ever, having so much time up for grabs at the end of stages or on a key climb can quickly add up to a lot.
A rider like Roglič, who has an explosive finishing kick after a hard climb, has a major advantage against skinny climbers who can ride a high tempo, but don’t have the kick to challenge for finish-line bonus seconds.
Bonuses can also affect the outcome of a stage if certain teams want the bonuses to be “taken off the table” by a breakaway. When Mitchelton-Scott was in nursing three-second slender lead with Adam Yates, the team was not chasing breakaways precisely so that the bonuses would not come into play at the finish line.
“I am pretty confident that at some stage there will be a more dramatic moment in the race in which that the gaps will become clearer,” Wegelius said. “I don’t think it will decide the race, but it will have an impact on how breakaways and such things can be managed.”
Time bonuses often prove decisive in smaller stage races, such as the five-day Tour Down Under.
It’s rare a three-week grand tour would be decided on time bonuses.
Roglič’s lead right now of 21 seconds comes thanks to bonuses. Tours have been won or lost on smaller gaps.
And as long as they’re in the offing, Roglič said he’s going to keep sprinting for them.