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It only took the Slovenian two weeks to respond with a dramatic victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday that silenced doubters and salvaged a season of near-misses.
Having seen the yellow jersey torn from his shoulders by young countryman Tadej Pogačar on the penultimate stage in France, Roglič bounced back in the Belgian hills. The Jumbo-Visma leader won the oldest and toughest of the one-day races this weekend – albeit in the most unusual of manners – pipping Julian Alaphilippe to the line in downtown Liège after the flamboyant Frenchman had begun a premature celebration.
“This shows that you should never stop believing in victory,” Roglič said after winning a 257-kilometer race by a split-second. “You have to keep pushing until the last meters, or actually the last centimeters.”
Roglič came to the finishing straight this weekend having worked with Tour de France foe Pogačar to reel in a late attack by Alaphilippe and Marc Hirschi in the final kilometers of the race. His tenacity to gut out the aggressive final hour of action in Belgium proved that the Tour has been resigned to memory.
“That’s life, that’s how it is,” Roglič said of the Tour turnaround at the winner’s conference in Liège. “There are always ups and downs. Whatever happens, the next day it becomes a thing of the past. I always want more … I just moved on. It would be no use to keep crying.”
Roglič rode through 19 days in France on the coattails of a seemingly unstoppable Jumbo-Visma team powered by the red-hot form of Wout van Aert, Sepp Kuss, and Tom Dumoulin, only to be usurped at the last by the blazing talent of youngster Pogačar. Roglič’s victory in Liège was his repayment to the team for the kilometers of toil that they put in through the Tour.
“I’m super happy and super-proud of the team. Finally, I managed to win something,” he said with a smile and shrug.
Roglič’s salvation in Liège proves the point that champions are made as much in how they handle defeat as how they soak in victory.
“This is our second monument win this year [after van Aert won in Sanremo],” Jumbo-Visma boss Richard Plugge said afterward. “It’s incredible what we’re doing this season. This was a great opportunity for the team. After the setback in the Tour, Primož came back great. He can handle winning, but also losing.”
Just one week after the crushing disappointment on the Planches des Belles Filles, Roglič had ridden to sixth at the Imola world championships, riding leglessly to the line at the back of a stellar group led by Van Aert. He was later blasted by fans and media for what many saw to be an uncooperative attitude and lack of acknowledgment of Van Aert’s tireless performance at the Tour.
The tirade of post-worlds criticism could have proven the nail in Roglič’s post-Tour coffin. Any demons that may have been lurking were suitably banished Sunday as he stubbornly flipped around a month of misfortune.
“Roglič didn’t do the Flèche Wallonne because he was still too tired,” Jumbo-Visma sport director Frans Maassen explained Sunday. “But he said he was motivated for the monuments, and spent the whole week recharging for it.”
“You also have to be lucky, of course, because it was a separate sprint. But that does not matter. My old boss used to say, ‘it doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you win’.”