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Primož Roglič banished the demons of last year’s disaster with GC victory at Paris-Nice.
It took a monster ride from Wout van Aert to keep Roglič’s GC bid alive after a blazing attack from GC rival Simon Yates sent Jumbo-Visma heart-rate monitors haywire and put the classification in balance in a dramatic final stage around Nice.
“I don’t go without a bit of drama,” a relieved Roglič said in the post-race interview, son perched on his knee.
“It was super hard this last one, but I have to admit, it was easier and I’m more happy than the final stage last year.”
- Van Aert saves Roglič at Paris-Nice
- Roglič on 2021 Paris-Nice defeat: ‘The world does not stop, I look forward’
Van Aert’s superdomestique shift saved the day for Jumbo-Visma on Sunday and put a stop to Roglič’s run of misfortune in France after being undone at the last moments of the 2020 Tour, and last year’s Paris-Nice.
Roglič didn’t play proud after the stage Sunday – Wout was “MVP”.
“I have to thank the whole team, but especially Wout here at the end – half-human, half-motor. He can do everything,” Roglič said.
“I was definitely not feeling strong enough, I didn’t have power. I was really suffering and fighting over the climb to limit the losses. Luckily I knew Wout had a super day. He was a big big help, going through with me all the way through to the finish.”
Guess who will be buying the beers at the Jumbo-Visma party Sunday night?
No replay of 2021
Last year, Roglič saw his GC-lead evaporate in a dramatic final day of racing in the “Race to the Sun.”
Two crashes and a dislocated shoulder saw both the Slovenian’s GC bid — and his bib shorts — in tatters and left him carrying the burden of nearly-man after seeing his Tour de France smoked just six months earlier in that historic time trial.
A repeat of Roglič’s final stage implosion last year looked good for a replay when Yates attacked on the final of five climbs in Sunday’s explosive final stage.
The Brit blazed clear and Roglič looked to be at risk of unraveling, clinging to van Aert’s wheel on the slopes of the infamous Eze climb. Van Aert set his huge TT engine in motion through the final 20km to keep Yates in range, salvaging Roglič’s overall honors and saving the Slovenian from another crushing near-miss.
The victory handed Roglič a confidence-boosting score on roads local to his Monaco base in what was his first stage-race of the season.
“Home race, home roads, but it didn’t make it much easier, uh?” he quipped.
Rog and Pog ride toward Tour de France with crucial early-season success
Just hours before van Aert towed his leader into Nice, Roglič’s countryman, friend and nemesis secured a crushing GC conquest at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Pogačar took emphatic victory in Italy on Sunday to continue his storming run through the early season after marquee wins at the UAE Tour and Strade Bianche.
Roglič and Pogačar will clash once again at the Tour this summer and stand far ahead in the book-makers’ early betting odds for the maillot jaune. Double defending champion Pogačar is red-hot favorite after Roglič came unstuck at the last in 2020 and crashed out in 2021.
But just like how Roglič refused to be bullied by his back-story when speaking ahead of the Paris-Nice denouement Sunday, he’ll be hoping to do the same when he rolls out of Copenhagen this July.
“The past doesn’t decide your future,” Roglič said Sunday morning. “We take something out of it, we learn, and we go.”
All roads lead to the Tour for Pog and Rog.