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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Primož Roglič debuts his season at the Faun-Ardèche and Drome classics this weekend ahead of a tried-and-trusted altitude-heavy track to grand tour season.
“Primož will mostly follow this year what we did before,” Jumbo-Visma director Grischa Niermann told VeloNews. “There won’t be too much racing early on. Most preparation will be in training, lots of altitude.”
Roglič kick-starts a season pointing toward the Tour de France on Saturday in what will be his first race in four months.
The triple-Vuelta champ’s “French weekend” makes for an aperitif ahead of a program running through Paris-Nice, the Ardennes, and at least two blocks of altitude training. A to-be-decided tuneup at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June could be the Slovenian’s only competition ahead of his perennial Tour de France push.
The Ardèche-Drome double-header and a possible dive into the Dauphiné make for the only tweaks to the program that last year saw Roglič ride high and then abandon the Tour before bouncing back for Olympic and Vuelta a España triumph.
Jumbo-Visma’s race little, ride high approach
Roglič’s early season lie-in makes him last of the GC’s top-dogs to drop into 2022.
Tadej Pogačar is crushing summit sprints at the UAE Tour, Richard Carapaz has seen 10 race days, and classification contenders like Aleksandr Vlasov and Miguel Ángel López have already impressed.
Roglič is not alone in his laid-back attack to the calendar. Jumbo-Visma teammates Sepp Kuss, Steven Kruijswijk and Jonas Vingegaard will also finally make 2022 debuts this weekend as part of a power-packed yellow-and-black crew for the French classics.
Why so slow out of the gate?
It works, says Niermann.
“Our approach with our top riders is not that they need to race for two months until they get in form again,” he said in a recent call.
“We’ve seen before and we know from data that riders like Primož and Wout [van Aert] can be good straight from training. From the moment they are racing they’re competitive. At least for us, we don’t see the sense sending them now to whatever, the Saudi tour at beginning of February for example.”
From the thin air to the Ardennes
Jumbo-Visma’s altitude-heavy approach to the season’s biggest races has been part of the Dutch team’s recent rise to the top. A huge investment into aerodynamics, nutrition and a new service course the size of a suburb have helped Jumbo-Visma level up to Ineos Grenadiers and maybe beyond.
For all top teams, trips to thin air are at the center of getting race-ready, with as much as half the peloton being perched atop Teide at any one point in the winter.
Only Jumbo-Visma takes that to “factor 10.”
Last year, Roglič spent most of the early summer atop the French resort Tignes and didn’t come back until the Tour. Like 2021, the Slovenian is expected to be patrolling the long climbs to Teide or Tignes for four weeks or more ahead of this year’s grand départ.
And as if that’s not enough, the Slovenian star also spent the past three weeks at altitude rather than readying his race legs in the full-gas February calendar.
“Primož had a good winter, a quiet winter and he’ll head to Paris-Nice and we’ll see how well he trained,” Niermann said. “He’s been at altitude a lot and we’ve seen that works. We’ve seen before Primož, Wout, they are in top shape when they start the Tour, but they are also in shape when they come to training camp in January. Altitude camps work for them and we see why it works, rather than racing.”
Roglič’s Tour roadmap includes another run through the jagged hills of the Ardennes. After winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2020 and coming close in La Flèche Wallonne last year, Roglič’s one-day ambitions aren’t done just yet. There’s no decision yet if he’ll go back to the Vuelta.
“He showed he can win these monument races, and it’s a big priority, but there’s one big, big goal and that’s the Tour,” Niermann said. “The other goals like Paris-Nice, Pays Basque, the classics, they are goals but we’re not basing the year around them.”
Make the most of Roglič from this weekend through the Ardennes. Because after that, he’s likely to be off-grid and up high for quite some time.
Roglič’s provisional 2022 calendar:
- Faun-Ardèche Classic: February 26
- Drome Classic: February 27
- Paris-Nice: March 6-13
- Itzula Basque Country: April 4-11
- La Flèche Wallonne: April 20
- Liège-Bastogne-Liège: April 24
- Altitude camps: May-June
- Criterium du Dauphine (TBC)
- Tour de France: July 1-24