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Roglic ending breakout season on high

The Slovenian is poised to become one of the top GC riders in the next decade, and it all came together for him in 2019

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Mathieu van der Poel was like a comet across the night sky. Egan Bernal made history as Latin America’s first yellow jersey. Remco Evenepoel pushed the boundaries between youth and reality.

Yet no rider has been more consistent and more successful across the entire arc of the 2019 season than Primoz Roglic. The 29-year-old looks to be ending his season the same way he started it – by winning.

On Saturday, Roglic won the Giro dell’Emilia in Italy. That sets the stage for Sunday’s battle at the Giro di Lombardia and a fitting conclusion on Roglic’s unmistakable arrival to cycling’s elite.

“The last time I climbed San Luca, I won and today I win again. I think it’s a nice place here”, Roglic said Saturday with trademark understatement. “I will start in Tre Valli Varesine [on] Tuesday, and then finish my season in Il Lombardia.”

Even if he doesn’t win again this season, Roglic’s 2019 campaign will mark a ‘before and after’, not only for the former ski jumper, but the entire Jumbo-Visma team.

Roglic, 29, hit his stride in 2019, and almost no one could touch him in stage races. In 66 days of racing, his haul included 12 wins, including overalls in four of five stage races he started. He rattled off the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Tour de Romandie in his unstoppable spring. He rebounded from a career-first grand tour podium with third at the Giro d’Italia to win the Vuelta a España.

That Giro podium, which some saw as a letdown after starting as one of the top favorites, only served to confirm to everyone inside the Jumbo-Visma bus that Roglic was their man.

Roglic started strong in the Giro, leading the race before many stages, before fading in the final week to finish third. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

“The Giro felt like a success for us and for Primoz,” said Jumbo-Visma sport director Addy Engels. “It was the first time we targeted a grand tour to win as a team, and also for Primoz individually. It was the first [grand tour] podium for us and for the team, so, yes it was a big success. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The fight for the podium was so hard.”

After skipping a planned start in the Tour due to fatigue and the imminent birth of his first child, Roglic reloaded for the Vuelta. The Giro experience paid off, and Roglic coolly fended off rivals to secure his first grand tour victory.

It was an even more remarkable result considering the Vuelta was only his fifth grand tour he’s ever raced.

“We knew right away that Primoz had a big engine,” said Jumbo-Visma boss Richard Plugge. “He’s a very good student and he very quickly learned how to race a grand tour. We hope this is the first of many.”

Jumbo-Visma paid back the favor by offering a contract extension to keep him in team colors through the 2023 season.

Roglic’s win was also very much a team victory. His Vuelta victory was the first in the rebooted team, born from the ashes of the Rabobank team. Reorganized under leadership from Plugge, sport directors slowly rebuilt from its base. Roglic was a key piece of the puzzle that also included the likes of Robert Gesink, Steven Kruijswijk, Dylan Groenewegen and George Bennett. Laurens De Plus, Sepp Kuss, Wout Van Aert and the arrival of Tom Dumoulin for 2020 means the team can match any squad in the peloton.

The strength of Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma teammates was pivotal to the Slovenian’s 2019 success. Tim de Waele/Getty Images.

Roglic, along with Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Richard Carapaz (Movistar), is the only non-Sky/Ineos rider to have won a grand tour in the past two seasons. With Carapaz heading to Ineos next season and Movistar losing much of its GC firepower, all eyes are turning to Jumbo-Visma and Roglic as the team best-placed to try to end the British team’s stranglehold on the Tour.

“We will have many options next for the grand tours,” Plugge said. “We have not decided yet on calendars, but the arrival of [Dumoulin] will only make us stronger.”

Appropriately enough, Saturday’s win pushed Roglic to No. 1 in the world rankings. It was his 12th win in 2019, and the 49th for Jumbo-Visma for the season.

Just like he did in a time trial stage up the same climb at San Luca where he won a time trial stage to claim the pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia in May, Roglic spun his power into an undecipherable puzzle for his rivals.

On Saturday, the route looped over the San Luca climb five times. On the fifth and final assault, Roglic jumped clear in the final kilometer to win as the only rider in the photo.

“The team did a great job today”, Roglic said. “We controlled the race from the start. On the local laps, we often participated in the attack and we caught the last attackers. In the end it was up to me to finish it off.”

Now more than ever, Roglic is growing confident in his role as the guy “to finish it off.” That confidence was honed throughout the 2019 season. With his world-class time trial ability coupled with his steady climbing, and backed by one of the deepest benches in the peloton, Roglic is poised to emerge as one of the top grand tour riders for the next decade.