Bike racing is back – in Slovenia at least.
Primož Roglič won the Slovenian national road race championship Sunday in what was his first race since October 2019. The Jumbo-Visma rider rode clear of his young Tour de France rival Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) in the final kilometers of the race’s closing climb, with Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-McLaren) taking third.
“It is a really wonderful that the situation allows us to finally race again and to do what we do best, racing our bikes,” Roglič said on his team’s website after the race. “I am very happy that I was able to take the national title in my first race of the season.”
With Slovenia declaring itself clear of coronavirus over one month ago, the event was the only European national championship able to keep its originally-planned date. The rest of the nationals will take place late August.
The 146-kilometer race came down to a final battle on the 8km, 7.8 percent climb to the line after a breakaway group had been caught.
Pogačar, Roglič, Mohoric, Jani Brajkovic (Adria-Mobil) and Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-McLaren) went away on the lower slopes of the ascent before an attack by Roglič initially saw Pogačar distanced. As the group split, Pogačar winched his way back onto Roglič’s wheel.
Roglič and Pogačar remained locked together through the second half of the climb before a second acceleration from Roglič saw him gain ground on his young rival, leaving him to solo to the line to win by around 10 seconds. Roglič’s victory marks the first national road title of his career.
With Roglič having not raced since fall last year and Pogačar having strung together podium finishes at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the UAE Tour this winter, Roglič had downplayed his chances before the race, telling NOS last week that “it will be a real challenge to stay in the wheel with him [Pogačar] on Sunday.”
Speaking after his victory this weekend, Roglič again spoke highly of 21-year-old Pogačar.
“It was a tough race with a very tough final climb,” Roglič said. “Given the results in the spring, Tadej was the favorite and it was certainly not easy to beat him. The fact that I take the victory here in my first race of the season feels very good. I am definitely not in top form yet, but I am already looking forward to the upcoming races.”
Roglič had also spoken of his form when speaking to Dutch outlet Nos before the race.
“My goal [at the nationals] is mainly to break the routine of training and do something different. It will be good training anyway…I am certainly not ready to ride the Tour de France yet, but this race should work.”
Ursa Pintar (Ale BTC Ljubljana) won the women’s 68km race.
Roglič will be back in action at the national time trial championship this week. Both Jumbo-Visma and UAE-Team Emirates are expected to get their season started at the Vuelta a Burgos, July 28.