To paraphrase an aphorism, the measure of a person’s character can be found in how they handle defeat.
While Primož Roglič has enjoyed plenty of success during his career, the Slovenian has endured some big defeats and disappointments.
Last year, he looked set to crown his Tour de France victory on the penultimate day time trial only to be unseated by a superlative Tadej Pogačar. At Paris-Nice earlier this year, he seemed destined to take the win, until he crashed twice on the final stage and was forced into a desperate, and unsuccessful, chase to try and save his lead.
The latest blow for Roglič is his early departure from the Tour de France after injuring his back and losing a lot of skin in a crash on stage 3. He tried valiantly to carry on in the hope of salvaging something, but it became clear Saturday that he wasn’t going to gain anything from the race other than painful hours in the saddle.
“We made this choice together,” Roglič said in a statement announcing his abandonment. “There is no point in continuing this way. Now it’s time to recover and focus on my new goals. I am very disappointed that I have to leave the Tour, but I have to accept it as it is. I remain optimistic and look forward.
“Immediately after my crash in the third stage, I did not think that crash would herald my departure from the Tour. I never look that far ahead,” he said. “After a few days, I saw that I was not making any progress in my recovery. Even though I surprised myself in the time trial, I had a bad feeling again the days after. The long and tough stages take their toll. I will now focus on recovering from that.”
Why we think cycling is such a great sport? This 👇
— Lotto Soudal (@Lotto_Soudal) July 3, 2021
After gearing his whole season around Tour de France victory, like the other GC contenders, departure must come as a bitter blow for Roglič. Success in this year’s Tour would have been an opportunity to put to bed any remaining demons he had after losing out in 2020, but now he is left picking up the pieces of months of work and figuring out what comes next.
Dealing with disappointment
Roglič’s struggles over the last week have been well documented by the television cameras covering the racing action. They have captured a stoic Roglič that appeared to be taking this major knockback in his stride.
We all deal with pressure and disappointment differently, and it could have been easy for Roglič to become something of a recluse, avoiding the media questions and hiding away in the team bus.
Roglič has done the exact opposite.
In his press conferences, Roglič can come across as a bit cold and calculating but in private he is known to have a good sense of humor.
Each morning, he has answered questions and even made jokes about his struggles. For many reasons, the picture of a heavily bandaged Roglič giving the thumbs to the camera with a smile on his face the morning after his big crash on stage 3 sticks in my mind.
— daniel mcmahon (@cyclingreporter) July 3, 2021
There are two other images from the race itself that demonstrate Roglič’s resilience and humanity quite well.
The first comes from Friday’s stage, where he was dropped out of the back of the peloton on the Signal d’Uchon and lost nearly four minutes to Pogačar. He saw a young boy on the side of the road and rode over to him to hand over what will be a much-prized bottle.
The other was Saturday, where Roglič endured another drubbing and rolled across the finish line in the sprinter’s gruppetto. On the way to the bus, cameras caught him shaking hands with and fist-bumping fans with a massive smile on his face.
After suffering two very difficult days on the bike, Roglič was still able to put that aside and appreciate the fans. We’ve all been guilty of becoming entirely consumed within our own frustrations and disappointments, but Roglič has done well not to be mentally broken by it.
Indeed, Roglič’s mental resilience seems to be as strong as his abilities on the bike, and let’s hope that he can bounce back from this latest setback.
Roglič’s decision to leave the race may have been somewhat influenced by the forthcoming Olympic Games. Roglič is part of a formidable Slovenian squad that includes the current yellow jersey Pogačar, as well as Jan Polanc and Jan Tratnik.
As with his Liège-Bastogne-Liège win in 2020, the road race and time trial in Tokyo provide two opportunities to put summer disappointments behind him. Those months of grinding away at altitude might be worth something if he can walk away with a medal.
It all depends on how he recovers over the coming weeks.