“Not the most comfortable”: Roglic inherits Van Aert’s yellow at Paris-Nice
Primož Roglič inherited the yellow jersey from Wout van Aert in stage 5 of Paris-Nice, although the transfer was not as smooth as Jumbo-Visma would have liked.
The Slovenian remains the favorite for the overall victory of this race, but his team’s sliver of impregnability has been dulled by their display in the middle Mountain of the Ardeche.
Although Rohan Dennis made a long individual stint of pace on the Col de la Mure to make up for shortcomings elsewhere, Roglič found himself completely isolated in the last 20 kilometers of the stage.
He held on in the middle of a volley of attacks on unclassified Saint-Vincent-de-Durfort to take the yellow and maintain a 39-second lead over Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), but it was not as the stage was supposed to unfold.
“It wasn’t the most comfortable,” admitted Roglič after the podium ceremony. “That was how it was. Luckily I had the strong enough legs at the end to be with the top guys because my guys did all the work all day.”
After sweeping the top three places on day one and again in the stage 4 time trial, Jumbo-Visma occupied the top three places in the general classification at the start of Saint-Just-Saint-Rambert on Thursday. morning. The men in yellow and black continued to lead the peloton for much of the afternoon, but their grip on the proceedings suddenly loosened when Arkéa-Samsic resumed the race at the Col de la Lure.
It was to be expected that Classics men like Christophe Laporte would lose contact here, but, even more surprisingly, so did Steven Kruijswijk and overall leader Van Aert. Suddenly Roglič had only Dennis for company in the peloton, although the Australian made up for that relative isolation with a performance that recalled his commanding performances on behalf of Tao Geoghegan Hart in the final week of the 2020 Giro d’Italia.
It’s unclear why Ineos weren’t able to harness Dennis’ undoubted gifts last year, but his switch to Roglič’s service here bodes well for his potential to contribute to Europe’s Tour de France challenge. team in July. It’s also worth remembering that some of Jumbo-Visma’s climbing talents are on duty at Tirreno-Adriatico this week, including Jonas Vingegaard.
Roglič, for his part, preferred to salute Dennis’ performance rather than lament his own isolation during the break-in.
“Not ideal, huh, that’s for sure,” he smiles at his situation in the last 20 kilometers. “But Rohan, wow, he’s half-human, half-engine too. Another one. We’ve got a lot of those guys in our team, as I’ve seen so far. It’s super cool to see how how strong he is, how much work he can do. Hopefully in the next few days we can avoid such kind of situations.
Before the stage, there was speculation whether Van Aert, arguably the most skilful rider in the peloton since Sean Kelly, would seek to emulate the Irishman by winning Paris-Nice after clinching Wednesday’s time trial.
Van Aert, however, had long insisted he had no GC aspirations here given his focus on cobbled Classics, and he sat down as soon as he started struggling on the Col de la Mure, more than 24 minutes behind stage winner Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates).
It was unclear if Van Aert had planned in advance to slow down on the climb or if the sensations in his legs on the lower slopes had dictated his approach.
“It was a bit of everything,” Van Aert said. “I mean, it was definitely a tough day, and we struggled with the team to control the strong breakaway. On the last climb, Arkéa accelerated and I started to feel the legs. Then my head took over and made the decision to take it a little easier towards the finish.
“After this race we’re straight into the bigger classics, so that’s personally all I’m focusing on. They’re definitely in the back of my mind.”
Roglič, meanwhile, suggested that the team’s strategy had always been for Van Aert to save himself in the latter part of Paris-Nice, rather than go as far as he did there. is a year old by finishing second overall in Tirreno-Adriatico.
“I mean, now we can talk about it, but I think that was already the plan from the very beginning,” Roglič said. “Obviously he has different goals for himself and he tries to be ready for those goals.”
Whatever the reasons for Van Aert’s absence from Roglič’s side in the final, Jumbo-Visma’s rivals took heart. Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) broke away from the peloton at Col de la Mure, although the distance to the finish and Dennis’ strength deterred the others from following him.
When Dennis rode before the final climb to Saint-Vincent-de-Durfort, however, Roglič’s opponents looked to make their numbers count. Adam Yates’ forced pass was followed by an attack from Ineos teammate Daniel Martinez. Later Simon Yates and Aleksandr Vlasov had digs, as did Pierre Latour, although Roglič had the strength and poise to withstand these efforts.
“Everyone, huh, it’s too much of them. I couldn’t even count,” laughed Roglič when asked to name his main rival. “You can see there are a lot of guys.”
In the general classification, Roglič remains 39 seconds ahead of Simon Yates, 41 ahead of Latour and 56 ahead of Martinez, with Vlasov at 59 seconds and Adam Yates at 1:11.
Although Saturday’s Col de Turini summit finish is uncertain due to snow forecasts, Friday’s run to Aubagne will not be easily controlled, while Sunday’s finish in the hills behind Nice is still a tough affair. . Van Aert may be absent from the general classification competition, but his support will be needed in the days to come.
“It’s always an advantage to have a slightly easier final today, so I’ll be ready to help him if needed this weekend,” said Van Aert. “But I think he’s fine.”
Three days away from home, Roglič is in a familiar position atop the standings. Since winning the 2018 Itzulia Basque Country, he has won eight of his last 11 stage races of a week or less. And, had it not been for the heavy crashes at both Dauphiné 2020 and Paris-Nice last year, that record would most likely be an even more striking 10 out of 11.
And this is where the problem lies for the riders who have plans to oust Roglič during the last three days of Paris-Nice. Whether surrounded by teammates or riding alone, he remains a man apart.