There’s no denying that Primoz Roglic already has one of the best podium salutes in the peloton.
Legs split like scissors and arms spread full-eagle, Roglic takes flight when he hits the winner’s podium. It’s something the 28-year-old Slovenian is doing these days with increasing frequency. The ski-jumper turned bike racer is quickly proving he’s the real deal.
On Sunday, he secured the GC overall at the Tour de Romandie after fending off a full onslaught by Team Sky and its new gem, Egan Bernal. The Colombian phenom finished eight seconds back, with Richie Porte (BMC Racing) rounded out the podium.
“I’m speechless,” Roglic said. “Me and the whole team are happy, very happy with this victory.”
After winning the Vuelta al País Vasco in April, Roglic backed it up with another stunning victory at Romandie. Both are considered among the hardest one-week stage races on the international calendar.
The big question now is how far and high can Roglic fly?
“His development as a cyclist, [after being] a former ski jumper, is phenomenal,” said LottoNL-Jumbo sport director Merijn Zeeman. “It’s a dream for us to see how he develops. As a person, as a cyclist, and as leader of this team, he’s a fantastic person to work with.”
That Roglic is a protagonist in the Swiss Alps shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. What’s astonishing is that he’s no longer in the sport that everyone thought he’d be king.
A decade ago, he was one of Slovenia’s leading ski jumpers, and competed in international competition from 2007 to 2011. A couple of nasty crashes and some injuries changed Roglic’s trajectory in unexpected ways.
By his early 20s (relatively old by ski-jumping standards) Roglic realized he had topped out in Nordic ski jumping. Similar to Michael Woods (EF-Drapac), who switched sports mid-career from middle distance running to cycling, Roglic made the change to road cycling. And his ascension in the ranks has been nothing short of impressive.
When he showed up at the 2016 Santos Tour Down Under for his WorldTour debut, everyone was whispering, “he used to be a ski-jumper.” After winning Romandie on Sunday, people were saying, “he’s the guy who beat Richie Porte.”
“He’s with the team now for the third year,” Zeeman said. “He has now won two of the most prestigious WorldTour stage races on the calendar with the Vuelta al País Vasco and Romandie.”
A solid climber and proven time trialist, many wonder just how far Roglic can go on the road. Some think he doesn’t quite have the right build to win a grand tour. Others say he’s a natural-born winner. So far, he’s shown promise in two grand tour starts. He was 58th in his grand tour debut that included a TT stage win at the 2016 Giro. Last year he rode to Paris in 38th with another stage win in his pocket.
At Romandie, he proved he knows how to race and defend a jersey. He took the leader’s jersey early, and held firm in the decisive climbing stage in stage 4.
Later this summer, Roglic will be heading back to the Tour de France where he will see newfound freedom and support. In 2017, he became the first Slovenian to win a Tour stage and later finished second to nemesis Tom Dumoulin in the world time trial championship in Norway.
“I knew I was strong and I was also optimistic, but you still have to do it,” he said. “That is far from easy. Every day was tough and each stage was decisive.”
It remains to be seen whether his talents can translate into GC success in a three-week race. The upcoming Tour will be just his third grand tour appearance — but in just his third year at the WorldTour level, he’s already added two high-profile stage races to his palmares. If Roglic does indeed hope to make the jump to grand tour contention, don’t be surprised if he sticks the landing.