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Primož Roglič passes Tour de France test unscathed: ‘The cobbles are something completely new’

Roglič and Jumbo-Visma teammate Jonas Vingegaard take lessons from cobblestone primer ahead of Tour de France.

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There was a familiar yellow jacket of Jumbo-Visma streaking across the pavé Thursday in northern France, but it wasn’t Wout van Aert.

Instead, it was Tour de France contender and Slovenian GC star Primož Roglič bashing the cobbles in a pre-Tour preview of what lies in wait this summer.

“It is something different. I am not really used to it,” Roglič told reporters at the line. “It was a special day, it was super hard racing.”

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Roglič passed the mid-term exam Thursday by safely negotiating several sectors of cobbles at race speed at GP de Denain in what was a key proving ground ahead of the Tour.

With stage 5 of this summer’s Tour tackling sectors of the treacherous Paris-Roubaix cobblestones, Roglič didn’t want to go into July’s race for the yellow jersey without at least sampling some beforehand.

Roglič was impressed with what he felt under the wheels.

“It was OK, it went good,” Roglič said. “I really experienced a lot of new things out there today and I am not really used to it. I did something completely new.

Roglič and Jumbo-Visma teammate Jonas Vingegaard both lined up Thursday at the otherwise low-key GP de Denain-Porte du Hainaut. Some 12 sectors of cobbles were sprinkled along the back-end of the 200km route.

Though they were not the exactly same as what they’ll see in the Tour, the midweek semi-classic provided the two Tour favorites a low-stress, low-profile opportunity to get a taste of what the punishing cobblestones are like at race speed.

“I learned a lot. The cobbles themselves, I almost never ride it,” Roglič said. “When you ride on the cobbles and the gravel besides, it’s very different.”

Both handled themselves fairly well on the rough and tumble roads of northern France. Both stayed in the front group until a decisive late-race attack blew up the race with about 35km to go.

Vingegaard suffered an ill-timed puncture just before Ineos Grenadiers started to fracture the lead group, and could not counter.

Roglič had the nose and legs to follow three Ineos riders and Ag2r’s Damien Touzé peeled off the front. Powered by American rookie Magnus Sheffield, the group was only caught with less than 2km to go.

Max Walscheid (Cofidis) won the reduced bunch kick, with Roglič rolling across the line in 37th at 22 seconds back content with a hard day of cobbles racing 101.

“It was super hard. Of course I expected it to be hard, but it is different kind of racing,” Roglič said. “I didn’t want to risk it a lot and it was something new. Step by step.

“I was not here to make a result, I was here to race on the cobbles and that’s what we did,” he said. “It would have been nice to come to the group together to the finish, but unfortunately we did not make it.”

Taking notes ahead of the Tour’s cobblestone challenge

Roglič rode into a late-race move during his baptismal on the cobbles Thursday. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Roglič and Jumbo-Visma realize the stage 5 cobblestone quagmire will be another hurdle to pass in what’s a treacherous opening week at the 2022 Tour laden with traps.

Crosswinds, narrow roads, crashes, and other dangers will lay traps for the riders before they reach Paris.

Jumbo-Visma knows that to have any chance of taking on Tadej Pogačar and improving on the team’s back-to-back second places at the Tour they have to survive the first week with their GC chances fully intact.

Roglič, hot off winning Paris-Nice, was taking mental notes all day.

“The biggest surprise was it nervous and fighting before the cobbles, that’s the biggest issue,” he said. “Because the cobbles are quite narrow, and there’s just room for a couple of guys. That’s the most dangerous.

“On the cobbles you can ride it OK,” Roglič said. “There was space today beside the cobbles today and we could even avoid them, because there were not so many people there. For sure at the Tour, there will be a lot of people, so for sure we will have to ride on the cobbles.”

Reporters jokingly asked him if he’ll be adding Paris-Roubaix to his calendar.

“Roubaix? Who knows, maybe, one day. Step-by-step, this is already something,” Roglič said with a laugh. “I have different goals and races, and Paris-Roubaix is not really my main goal. Can’t you do everything? Me? No. Wout [van Aert] can do everything!”

Van Aert will be at Paris-Roubaix, and Roglič will be watching on TV.