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Primož Roglič racing to win at 2021 season debut at Paris-Nice

Jumbo-Visma star concluding altitude camp at Teide with ambitions to win in debut at 'Race to the Sun.'

Primož Roglič makes his 2021 season debut Sunday at Paris-Nice with an eye on picking up where he left off last year.

The Jumbo-Visma star missed out on an early team camp due to a possible exposure to a COVID-19 infection — Roglič was never diagnosed with the virus — and he’s been training at altitude on Spain’s Teide volcano for the past several weeks.

His season debut is set for Paris-Nice, where, naturally, he will be racing to win.

“When he is starting a race, normally he is fighting for victory,” Jumbo-Visma sport director Arthur van Dongen told VeloNews. “We will bring a strong team, and Primož is motivated to race.”

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The 31-year-old hasn’t raced since winning the Vuelta a España in November, and Sunday’s opening stage at Paris-Nice opens a very ambitious season for Roglič. The Tour de France and the Olympic Games are the central goals for 2021, but his spring is also packed with plenty of opportunities to add to his already burgeoning trophy case.

After Paris-Nice, he’s slated for a return to Itzulia Basque Country, which he won in 2018, followed by a full tilt at the Ardennes classics, with a first-ever start at Amstel Gold Race, and a return to Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he will line up as defending champion in the Belgian monument.

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Van Dongen said Roglič is healthy and ambitious ahead of a packed 2021 calendar.

In January, Roglič went into quarantine at his home in Monaco in a precautionary move after he came in contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19. Roglič never tested positive for the viral infection, but skipped a team training camp to avoid any risk to himself or his teammates.

Most important for Roglič is that the incident did not alter his training and preparation ahead of his season debut.

“Primož never got sick,” van Dongen said of the COVID precaution. “That was the reason he did not to come to the training camp. Now he has been at altitude on Tenerife, and he did all of training as planned.”

Roglič is not using Paris-Nice to ease into the season, but will try to target the overall victory. Roglič has already won spring calendar stage races such as Itzulia Basque Country, Tirreno-Adriatico, the UAE Tour and twice at Tour de Romandie.

Roglič has never raced Paris-Nice before, and will be keen to score a stage win and battle for the overall prize if he has the legs.

With a short time trial in stage 3, and mountaintop finales at stage 4 and stage 7, the eight-day stage race is ideal for Roglič’s skillset. Surviving the possible echelons, crashes and sometimes cold, wet weather in the first half of the race is often a deciding factor on who comes out on top at Paris-Nice.

Roglič will be joined by recently crowned New Zealand national road champion George Bennett, who is targeting the Giro d’Italia this season, and Steven Kruijswijk, who is also racing for the first time in 2021. Tony Martin, Lennard Hofstede, Jos van Emden and Sam Oomen round out the squad.