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ALICANTE, Spain (VN) — Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) – third in the Giro d’Italia – is hoping to ride under the radar ahead of the Vuelta a España although he is considered by many to be the favorite to win the 2019 edition starting Saturday.
The race begins with a team time trial, suited to the Slovenian and his Dutch WorldTour team. The team also includes powerhouse riders like Steven Kruijswijk, who finished third in the Tour de France last month.
“I know that many consider me the favorite,” Roglic said at the team presentation Thursday. “I really don’t know if I am, but I come well prepared. I do not look at rivals. I only think of myself and I have a great team, I count on that.”
Roglic dominated the spring spring, winning every stage race that he entered. He lined up in the Giro d’Italia as a five-star favorite, but faded after five days in the leader’s pink jersey and two stage wins. He held on during an uneven final week to earn a first-ever grand tour podium with third overall.
Though he finished fourth in the 2018 Tour, the team left him home this year in favor of Kruijswijk. The decision paid off, with third overall with Kruijswijk, and four stage wins, including the team time trial.
“It was a shame not to go to the Tour, but to go to it with guarantees, you have to be very well prepared, and I really was not in the best condition,” Roglic said. “Now, I hope to be at my best level in the Vuelta.”
Next season, Roglic and Kruijswijk will be joined by Tom Dumoulin. The Dutch winner of the 2017 Giro and second overall in both the Giro and Tour in 2018 will give Jumbo-Visma super-team status. A bolstered €20 million budget for 2020 certainly will not hurt, though still half of what Ineos counts on to support riders like Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and recent Tour winner Egan Bernal.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) understands that problem well, having come second to Froome twice in the Tour de France. However, he beat Froome to win the 2016 Vuelta and also counts the 2014 Giro in his palmarès.
“The favorite is Roglic, a complete cyclist, superior in the time trial, but with our team we have to see how we can counter him,” Quintana explained.
The Colombian’s biggest worry when facing Roglic could be the 36.2 Pau time trial over the border in France.
“The time trial is long, but you have to defend yourself,” Quintana said.
Quintana won the Valloire stage in the Tour and placed eighth overall. He will count on Valverde over the next three weeks, but unfortunately will not have Richard Carapaz. The Ecuadorian 2019 Giro winner crashed in a criterium and yesterday, the team announced he could not take part in the Vuelta.
This Vuelta is stacking to be a tug-of-war between Jumbo-Visma, Movistar and Astana, which brings Jakob Fuglsang and Miguel Angel Lopez.