Roglič won’t win the Tour. What does Jumbo do now?
Four days after crashing heavily and suffering scrapes and bruises all over his body, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) saw his GC hopes go up in smoke on Friday’s stage 7 of the Tour de France, the longest stage of this year’s race. The 31-year-old Slovenian, who led last year’s Tour into the penultimate day before ceding yellow to Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates), finished stage 7 nearly four minutes behind Pogačar and most of the rest of the GC hopefuls.
All told, he now finds himself 9:11 back on race leader Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and 5:28 down on Pogačar – not where he expected to be after one week of racing at this Tour.
Roglič’s solid performance in the stage 5 time trial had offered some hope that the injuries he sustained in stage 3 were not so serious as to hamper his GC bid too dramatically, but the long, up-and-down journey from Vierzon to Le Creusot on Friday proved to be too much for Roglič to bear.
“That fall in Pontivy was very serious,” said Jumbo-Visma technical director Merijn Zeeman, according to Wielerflits. “Those injuries consume a lot of energy. Miraculously, Primož was able to limit the damage in the time trial. However, such a grueling 260 kilometer ride turned out to be too much of a good thing. Then the body is completely empty and unfortunately he does not come close to his normal level at all.”
Roglič was dropped on the penultimate climb of the seventh stage, the Signal d’Uchon, and Jumbo-Visma did not send riders back to assist him. Zeeman explained afterwards that the team was “prepared” for the possibility that Roglič’s injuries would put him out of the GC picture.
“This morning Primoz indicated that he was in even more pain than the previous days. After his fall, we hoped, actually against our better judgement, that nature would be a little more favorable to him,” Zeeman said. “That turns out not to be the case. That’s why we didn’t make anyone wait for him during the ride.”
For Roglič, the big question may now be whether he finishes the Tour, with the Tokyo Olympics looming and a chance to go for a third straight Vuelta a España title to follow. Zeeman said the team will know more about Roglič’s status after the next two stages in the Alps.
Meanwhile, the Dutch WorldTour outfit is not out of the GC conversation altogether. After all, Jumbo-Visma did bring one of the strongest rosters to this race, and Zeeman said that the team will continue to “look for opportunities” at the Tour even if Roglič’s hopes have been dashed.
“We still want to see what we can do with Jonas Vingegaard and Steven Kruijswijk in the standings, or possibly win another stage,” Zeeman said. “This is also cycling. Dealing with setbacks is also part of it. One year is not the next. That has now become clear to us.”
Vingegaard, who rode to an impressive second overall at the Itzulia Basque Country earlier this season, is currently 5:18 down on GC (and only 1:35 behind Pogačar). Kruijswijk is a further 2:56 behind Vingegaard. Of course, neither rider is Jumbo-Visma’s best placed on the overall leaderboard at the moment; that honor goes to Wout van Aert, the only rider within a minute of race leader Mathieu van der Poel. After stage 7, Van Aert is more than three minutes ahead of Pogačar.
Zeeman conspicuously avoided mentioning Van Aert’s GC chances when discussing Jumbo-Visma’s altered plans in the wake of Roglič’s struggles. That’s hardly a surprise, considering Van Aert has never finished inside the top 10 of a Grand Tour and came into this race eyeing stage wins ahead of the Olympics – but it’s hard to ignore the fact that he was climbing with the very best riders in the Tour during several stages in last year’s race. Indeed, as of Friday afternoon, most bookies are giving the 26-year-old Belgian the third shortest odds of any rider in the Tour to win it all, behind Pogačar and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) but just ahead of the aforementioned Vingegaard.
For now, Jumbo-Visma is steering clear of putting that kind of pressure on Van Aert, but we probably won’t have to wait for long to see whether the three-time cyclocross world champ should be considered a real GC threat. After the longest stage in the race on Friday, the Tour heads into the Alps on Saturday, and with a string of Cat 1 climbs on the menu, the stage is sure to be yet another day with GC implications in a race that has seen so many GC shakeups already.