VALDEPENAS DE JAEN, Spain (VN) — Twenty-four hours ago, critics were wondering why Primož Roglič was attacking when he didn’t have to.
On Wednesday, Roglič answered his doubters with a dramatic winning surge up one of the steepest walls in the Vuelta a España to win his second stage of the race, and reconfirm his place among the GC favorites.
“Sometimes people say I don’t attack, and then yesterday people say I should not have attacked,” Roglič said. “If it’s possible I will always attack.”
Roglič showed no ill-effects of his high-speed and dangerous spill while descending off a dusty and slick road coming over a second-category summit in Tuesday’s transition stage.
Some questioned why Roglič even attacked at all in Tuesday’s transition stage when he’s controlling the GC, and Jumbo-Visma sport directors were quick to their GC captain, insisting that any risks were under control.
Despite a few scrapes from Tuesday, Roglič rode with surgical precision to fend off a strong surge from top rival Enric Mas (Movistar).
“It was a good day yesterday, and I wanted to take positive things, so today is a bonus. It’s beautiful,” Roglič said. “It was close again, huh? I was also suffering a lot, but in the end, I had enough for the win.”
Back in the high life again
On paper, the 25-percent grades up the wall at Valdepeñas de Jaén were perfect for Roglič and his explosive style. Jumbo-Visma worked hard at the front in the short, but hot, 133km stage, and kept the breakaway on a short leash going into the final ramp.
After coming over a difficult second-category climb late in the stage, it was straight down and then up the famous “wall” of Valdepeñas.
“I didn’t know the climb except from a video, but it’s something else when you ride it. I can tell you it’s super steep,” Roglič said. “I felt good there in the end, and I had the legs.”
An early breakaway almost held on for the win, with Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo) being swooped up in the final 200m.
Roglič uncorked an attack like a three-stage rocket, first riding off the wheel from a perfect setup from Jumbo-Visma teammate Sepp Kuss at the base of the short but steep climb. He then matched Mas, and blew him off his wheel for the win, and an important 10-second time bonus.
Roglič is clearly in control of his destiny. With a long time trial waiting on the final stage, many of his rivals admit they need to take up to two minutes on him to have any real chance of fending him off for victory.
Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) defended red, with Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) retaining second, but Roglič remains at the top of the main GC pecking order.
So far, he’s won two stages, and finished second in two more. With riders such as Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) struggling, Roglič appears to be in firm control of the race.
Yet when asked who is his most dangerous rival, Roglič said many remain.
“I am also dangerous,” he said with a laugh. “I cannot point to just one guy. Mas is also the closest, and that’s why he’s the most dangerous, and he has the other teammate with López and the whole team is super strong. Ineos is still there, and many, many guys. There are maybe 10 guys.”
With two transition stages well-suited for breakaways, things will get steep again over the weekend, and a summit finale Saturday to Pico Villuercas followed by a rollercoaster stage Sunday, to El Barranco, will lead into the final week looming in northern Spain.
“We just need to go day by day, and see how fast we can go, and what we can do,” Roglič said.
So far, he’s certainly living up to his word in this Vuelta a España.