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Primož Roglič ripped his way back into the red jersey on stage 13 of the Vuelta a España on Tuesday, and his Jumbo-Visma team is confident there will be no “third-week blues” for their Slovenian leader in the race’s final salvo of stages.
The Slovenian cast aside doubts over his form after a long season and buried memories of a dramatic Tour de France turnaround on the Planches des Belles Filles TT on Tuesday, returning to the top of the classification for the third time in his tug-o-war red jersey battle with Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers).
“That last climb was very hard and I knew I had to keep something back for the end of the stage,” Roglič said after the stage. “Each time trial is different, but when something like that [Tour de France TT] happens you doubt about it a little.”
Roglič finished the stage 49 seconds faster than Carapaz, and now leads the overall by a slender 39 seconds ahead of the Ecuadorian.
“We hoped for something like that,” sports director Franz Maassen told Eurosport when asked about the result Tuesday. “It was also a good TT from Carapaz, and the Vuelta is not done of course, but we took the jersey back and that’s what we wanted.”
As one of the strongest rouleurs in the GC pack, some expected Roglič to put minutes into his Ineos Grenadiers foe. Nonetheless, memories of Roglič’s historic ousting from the yellow jersey by Tadej Pogačar remained front of mind, particularly given the similarly-shaped parcours of the Ézaro TT to that of the Tour’s penultimate stage earlier this year.
Roglič cast aside those doubts Tuesday and proved that he is still very much in the fight both mentally and physically.
The Slovenian has been red-hot since August, winning the Tour de l’Ain and riding high in the Critérium du Dauphiné in August before coming one stage from victory at the Tour de France in September.
While Roglič’s haul of four stage wins so far at this Vuelta proves his legs are still strong, Maassen pointed out that his victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège just two weeks after a potentially-spirit crushing Tour defeat was key to keeping his spirit equally solid.
“He is the number one in the world. He’s a very talented rider and still very motivated after the Tour. There was disappointment that he lost there on the final day but he managed to fight back and he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège,” Massen said. “Winning Liege was a kick up to go to the Vuelta, and it was good motivation. He knew he was ready, and he’s still ok for the last week and will battle until Sunday.”
Going into the final five stages of the Vuelta, Roglič is in the driving seat but as his team well knows, a grand tour is never done until crossing the line of the final stage. The Dutch squad saw Roglič crumble from the lead at the Giro d’Italia last spring, and his form also took a dent in the final week of his ride into the red jersey at the Vuelta later that summer.
Jumbo-Visma now has three long transitional stages to navigate before a summit finish at la Covatilla on Saturday. With Carapaz looking to launch attacks wherever possible and third-place Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) hot on his heels just 47 seconds back, Jumbo-Visma is on red-alert, yet quietly confident that Roglič will deliver when he needs to most.
“We saw also last year at the Vuelta, the two easiest stages we almost lost the jersey,” Maassen said. “Every day counts and we have to expect many attacks from all the teams. But we have a strong team, especially uphill, and it looks that Primož can finish it off.”