Primož Roglič isn’t content to be king of the GC anymore.
The Slovenian star debuts his 2021 season Sunday at Paris-Nice ahead of a very ambitious season. Not only is the Jumbo-Visma captain intent on winning the Tour de France once and for all in 2021, but he’s also making a run at the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.
The Slovenian’s ambitions don’t end there. Roglič is adding the spring classics and a handful of select one-day races to his already deep skillset. Last year, he proved he could win monument-level races with victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
That success has only fueled a desire to extend his already wide net into another one of cycling’s many specialties.
“For sure he can win those types of races,” Jumbo-Visma sport director Arthur van Dongen told VeloNews. “He showed it last year at Liège. When he is in good shape, he can win the one-day races.”
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Former ski-jumper Roglič might have come late to cycling, but he’s quickly been making up for lost time. After confirming his chops in one-week stage races early in his career, he’s quickly emerged as one of the top grand tour contenders in the bunch. With solid climbing and time trialing skills, he’s won back-to-back editions of the Vuelta a España in 2019 and 2020, and hit podiums at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.
Right now, the primary objective in 2021 is to erase the penultimate-day collapse at the Tour last year and win the yellow jersey.
Behind that immediate ambition, the team is also carving space for a bid at the Olympic gold medal, where Roglič could be a candidate for medals in both the time trial and road race.
Expanding his reach into the Ardennes classics
Before those goals later in the summer comes an equally ambitious spring calendar.
On Sunday, he will race at Paris-Nice for the first time of his career. After winning all the major early-season stage races during his career, including wins at UAE Tour, Itzulia Basque Country, Tirreno-Adriatico, and twice at Tour de Romandie, the “Race to the Sun” is the last box to check.
And next comes a new wrinkle in Roglič’s already full calendar: one-day races.
With his strong finishing kick out of reduced bunches in hard races, Roglič has the engine and the finishing speed to be a contender across several of the monuments.
He’s already proven he can win at Liège, winning in spectacular fashion last fall in a finish-line bike throw ahead of a Julian Alaphilippe, who was prematurely raising his hands in jubilation.
This spring, he will race Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne for the first time, as well as returning to Liège.
His untapped potential in the hillier classics hasn’t gone unnoticed by team brass.
“Sometimes you need a bit of luck to win these types of races, but when Primož is in shape, for sure he can win,” van Dongen said. “Most of his victories come in stage races, but we saw at Liège he is capable of winning these races, too.”
Make no mistake; the Tour de France remains the central focus. After the spring classics, Roglič will hit altitude camps before and after the Critérium du Dauphiné, with the quest for the yellow jersey firmly at the center of his 2021 ambitions.
Which monuments could he win?
Roglič’s potential in the realm of one-day racing is intriguing. Among his 47 career victories, with most of them coming in stage races, there are a sprinkling of one-day successes. Of course, there is the jewel in the crown at Liège. He’s also won the Giro dell’Emilia and Tre Valle Varesino, both in 2019 in what are the traditional lead-up races to Il Lombardia.
Could Roglič emerge as a monument’s king as well as a grand tour dominator? Perhaps.
Of the five monuments, Roglič’s profile would naturally suggest success at Liège, which he’s already won, and Il Lombardia, where he’s raced three times, with his top result of seventh in 2019.
He’s never started Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix, and likely will never race the latter. Flanders could be on his radar at some point in the future because the lumpy course and smoother cobbles of Belgium can suit well-rounded GC riders if they commit to the race. Riders like Vincenzo Nibali and Julian Alaphilippe have raced at Flanders and came away enthusiastic. Winning a few yellow jerseys first is the priority ahead of any attempt at the cobbles.
Milano-Sanremo, which he’s raced just once, is another outlier that could suit him, but it comes early, and there are other riders on the team who could shine there, including defending champion Wout van Aert.
While van Aert is firmly placed as the team’s future classics star, there is room for Roglič to race one-day races, especially in the Ardennes.
Roglič will race Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne for the first time in 2021, and both align well with his explosive finishing kick.
It’s rare for established GC grand tour riders to venture too much into one-day racing once they’ve put their hooks into preparing and chasing leader’s jerseys. These days, preparation for the Tour de France is so dialed and meticulous that it’s a challenge to diverge from the established blueprint. For example, Chris Froome during his heyday rarely tiptoed into the Ardennes, and never was a factor when he did.
This new interest on the one-days comes from both the team management and from Roglič. Racing some more one-days this spring will help Roglič throughout the season, and especially in a tilt for the gold medal in Tokyo.
“We have a lot of goals with Primož this year,” van Dongen said. “Both he and the team wants to do these races. The team always discusses with the rider about their plans. When the rider is behind the plan, the more they are fighting for it, and the more trust and belief they have in the schedule.”
Roglič’s new focus on the classics will broaden his skillset as a rider and could elevate him to superstar status. Of course, he’ll want to knock off at least one yellow jersey along the way, but trying to add more one-day victories is an interesting evolution of one of the peloton’s most versatile riders.