Slovenia has spoken: Primož Roglič is the king of world cycling

The "otherworldly grandeur" of Slovenia's favourite son, memorialised in a medal and a media release.

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Slovenia’s rise to become a superpower of world cycling has catapulted Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič and Matej Mohorič to global fame. At home, they’re public figures, featuring in everything from cryptocurrency ads to sandwich wrappers. But which is the most beloved of the Slovenian cyclists? Finally, we have an answer – from the Slovenian Government itself. 

On Monday, at the Presidential Palace, Primož Roglič was awarded the country’s Golden Order of Merit “for outstanding sports achievements, promoting Slovenia on the world sports scene and inspiring people.” A sharply-dressed Roglič was pictured receiving a fancy medal from the Slovenian President, Borut Pahor, before they all posed with Roglič’s loving wife and worried-looking son. 

Roglič, family, President. Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Athletes get awarded things all the time, so this fact in itself is not remarkable. The press release accompanying the announcement, on the other hand, is an absolute masterpiece of its genre.

For starters, it’s 800 words long. In that span, all the familiar plot-points of the Primož Roglič narrative arc are covered: not just the ski jumping (because of course), but also the fact that he is the first Slovenian cyclist to wear a yellow jersey, win a Grand Tour, win a monument, and win an Olympic gold medal. The President’s office lays out its allegiance early and upfront: “Primož Roglič is the king of the cycling world,” it says. And what of the other Slovenian superstar? Tadej Pogačar – two-time Tour de France champion, three-time monument winner, Olympic bronze medallist –  is mentioned once in passing. 

Government communications are typically arid affairs, but that is abundantly not the case here. We learn that, through Roglič, Slovenia “realized the unpredictability of cycling races and at the same time felt how much we love him.” We learn that his sporting path “is a cinematic one … a legend that will be told by generations after us.” We learn that his trademark victory salute and smile “express happiness and reassurance.”

Then we get to the final paragraph, which is so florid that I will include it here in full because it really gets the heart pumping: 

“Primož Roglič lives the story of the encouragement we all need. He is the star of our hearts. It represents the story of realized wishes, which are the result of hard work and focus on the highest goal. “Hard work pays off,” he repeatedly says. For him, sport is an excellent journey for life and one of the most beautiful games the world knows. He never stops being humble. He shares his feelings with us, admits his disappointments, but still keeps faith that it will get better, that not everything is over. It gives us a sense of humanity and at the same time of otherworldly grandeur. With its modesty and frankness, it charms and enchants.“

-The most gushing press release I’ve seen outside of Turkmenistan
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

That glowing character-reference out of the way, Roglič’s big day out finished with a trip to hospital to repair his damaged shoulder. “I don’t want to think about what that means right now, but it’s no small thing,” Roglič told a local radio station on Sunday. “They cut off a piece of your bone and move it to where the dislocation is happening. Only after six to eight weeks does passive exercise follow.”

Seems bad, but at least there’ll be some warm fuzzy feelings to tide him over in his convalescence. Any time he’s feeling glum, he can just log on to the President’s website, read an insane press release, and be reminded that he is the star of our hearts, the king of world cycling, the one that an entire nation has just gone on record talking about how much more they adore him than Tadej Pogačar. Wild.

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