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Primož Roglič vs. Tadej Pogačar at the 2021 Giro d’Italia? Not likely

Hints that 2021 Giro d'Italia could dip into Slovenia raises prospects of rematch.

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Hints that the Giro d’Italia could dip into Slovenia next year has heightened the prospect of a rematch between Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar in the corsa rosa in 2021.

Officials from both of their respective teams, however, say that is far from certain.

With the Tokyo Olympic Games back on tap for 2021, and both riders expected to put the Tour de France at the center of their ambitions next season, a rematch between the two Slovenian superstars on Italian roads will have to wait.

Final schedules for 2021 for both riders are not yet finalized, though officials from UAE-Emirates confirmed that Pogačar will defend his Tour title in 2021. And with the Olympics on a climber-friendly course coming less than a week after the Tour ends in Paris on July 18, a Giro tilt for Pogačar is highly unlikely.

Jumbo-Visma officials said no discussions have begun about Roglič’s 2021 calendar, adding a roadmap for next season should be finalized by mid-January. Like Pogačar, Roglič has also said he’d like to race in the Olympic Games next summer.

The possible inclusion of stages into Slovenia in next year’s Giro, however, has raised the prospect that the Italian grand tour could still lure at least one of the Slovenian superstars.

The official unveiling of the Giro route for 2021 is expected by January, but media reports in Italy say the 104th edition of the Italian grand tour could start in Torino and end in Verona, with a possible excursion into Slovenia for one or perhaps two stages.

One scenario is that one of the Slovenian stars could put an Olympic bid at the center of their calendar, and much like Vincenzo Nibali had mapped out in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic postponed the Games, race the Giro and skip the Tour in order to be as fresh as possible for a once-in-a-lifetime shot at the gold medal.

Roglič certainly has some unfinished business with the Giro, where he was third overall in his breakout 2019 season, but following his close call to the yellow jersey in 2020, Jumbo-Visma will be putting an even stronger emphasis on the Tour next year.

Next year’s Tour route, at least on paper, could favor the likes of Tom Dumoulin, perhaps opening the door for Roglič to target the Giro and prepare for the Olympics.

Last month, however, Giro director Mauro Vegni said it was likely the 2021 route would stay entirely within Italian borders to avoid any possible complications with the coronavirus pandemic expected to reach into 2021.

Media reports in Italy hinted that officials are studying the possibility of dipping into neighboring Slovenia. Other stages likely for 2021 include a return to the Dolomites, with stages at Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Zoncolan.

There were also hints that the Giro could tackle the Colle Fauniera, one of the highest passes in Europe at more than 2400m, with an average grade of 7 percent on the 25km ascent.

With the Tokyo Olympics back on the 2021 schedule, it’s likely the Giro next year — which returns to its traditional date in May — will see several top gold-medal favorites choose to race the Italian grand tour instead of the Tour in order to be in optimum conditions for the highly demanding road race course that loops around Mount Fuji.