Primož Roglič on the cobbles of the GP de Denain

Confirmed: No cobble wobble for Roglič this summer

Roglič looked supremely comfortable in a breakaway on GP Denain's cobblestones.

by Jonny Long

photography by Getty Images

The GP de Denain, with all due respect, is an esoteric race for the more considered cycling fan, one who finds themselves at a loose end on a Thursday afternoon. That was until Primož Roglič announced he would be lining up for a rare taste of cobbled action.

Following his Paris-Nice victory, Roglič rocked up to the 1.Pro race because this summer’s Tour de France, which the 32-year-old hopes to win at the third time of asking, contains a perilous cobbled stage in the first week. One that won’t see you win the race but could certainly see you lose it. Denain was a perfect opportunity to hit cobbles at race speed without the danger of Paris-Roubaix.

The Slovenian is no stranger to mishap, losing the yellow jersey in spectacular fashion on the final day of the 2020 edition before a crash-marred 2021 race, and will be doing all he can to avoid such misadventure this year, which includes preparing for the hazardous stage five.

Jonas Vingegaard was another inclusion in the Jumbo-Visma squad at Denain, the young Dane runner-up behind Tadej Pogačar at the Tour last year and on Mont Ventoux became maybe the only rider in recorded history to actually drop the Slovenian.

At the Tour in 2018, Roglič dealt with the cobbles of stage nine seamlessly on his way to a surprise fourth-place finish overall, announcing his Grand Tour potential. Today’s race confirms he has little to fear, surfing the cobbles resplendent in gilet and legwarmers, before escaping off the front in the closing kilometres alongside an Ineos trio of Ben Turner, Magnus Sheffield and Jhonatan Narváez.

Their breakaway group was caught in the run-in to the finish, however, with Cofidis’ Max Walscheid taking the win ahead of Alpecin-Fenix’s Dries De Bondt, who couldn’t have banged his handlebars harder in frustration if he tried. Roglič eased across the line in 36th place.

“It’s completely different to ride on cobblestones,” Roglič said after the finish. “I learned things I wasn’t used to, like the nervousness prior to the cobblestone sections. Positioning is very important and that also makes it dangerous. I am not dissatisfied with the final result, because that was not the ultimate goal of today.”

“We were here to test the men and the equipment and Primož did a great job,” Jumbo-Visma sports director Grischa Niermann added. “We learned a lot for the cobblestone stage in the Tour de France. Real racing on the cobblestones is different from an exploration. Jonas [Vingegaard] had no chance after his flat tire in the second sector. “

Of course, practising on the cobbles won’t win you the yellow jersey, especially if a certain other Slovenian lines up looking for a third, straight win, but this year sees Roglič shift his approach to attemptive Tour glory.

After Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2021, Roglič didn’t race again until the Grand Départ in Brest, attempting to avoid any lumps and bumps like he picked up in his Critérium du Dauphiné crash the year before. In the coming months will resume a more regular pre-French Grand Tour schedule.

Cobbled preparation ticked off, now all Jumbo-Visma need to do is figure out how to beat Pogačar.

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