Vuelta a España: Rain jacket woes foiled red jersey chances for Primož Roglič

Primož Roglič got gapped struggling to put on a rain jacket and later didn't have the legs to follow attacks out of the GC group at the Vuelta a España.

Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

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Difficulties putting on a rain jacket might have cost Primož Roglič the 2020 Vuelta a España. It certainly cost him the leader’s jersey Sunday.

The defending champion was gapped coming down the wet, fast descent of the day’s penultimate climb in Sunday’s cold and rain climbing finale to Formigal after he said he struggled to zip up his rain jacket. A gap opened up under pressure from Movistar Team, and the hard effort to chase back on derailed Jumbo-Visma’s tactics, and later cost Roglič in the piercing finale.

“I had some problems to put on my rain jacket at the top of the (penultimate) climb, and it split going down hill,” Roglič said. “I had to go full-gas even before the last climb to come back.”

Roglič started the day with a thread-bare lead in the overall, but ceded the red leader’s jersey to arch-rival Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers). The 2019 Giro d’Italia finished behind a breakaway group, but slipped into the overall lead going into Monday’s rest day. Roglič dropped to fourth overall at 30 seconds back.

“I didn’t crash, I just had a problem with rain jacket to put it on and close it. I fell so far back in the front group, and then it split,” Roglič said. “I slid back, and [the field] broke, and I had to do a big effort to come back. Also thanks to my teammates that I could make it back, and I paid for it in the end.”

A big breakaway was clear up the road to Formigal — a stage that largely traced the route of the famous 2016 stage dubbed “Froomigal” — and things unexpectedly unraveled for Jumbo-Visma. As Roglič struggled to zip up his rain jacket, Movistar surged to the front and hit the hammer on the wet, fast descent.

Some wondered if Movistar’s attack on a descent when Roglič was struggling with a rain jacket was fair game, but Jumbo-Visma sport director Grischa Niermann said the only ones to blame were themselves for the miscue.

“That can happen when the leader is at the back of the bunch, and we have to be aware of that,” Niermann said. “It shouldn’t happen to us. We knew that Movistar and Ineos would take every opportunity to attack us. It’s a mistake from us, it is not unsportsmanlike from other teams. It’s our own fault.”

The team had soigneurs positioned about 1km from the summit of the penultimate climb to pass up rain jackets, which typically would be enough time for a rider to zip up before descending. With the wind, cold and rain creating complicated circumstances, however, it simply took Roglič longer than expected. By then, the leading group had split, and Movistar and others were setting a blistering pace heading down to the approach to the final climb.

With rain and fog hampering television images, it was unclear what had happened. George Bennett did a huge pull to help Roglič regain contact with the GC group heading toward the base of the final Formigal climb, but American Sepp Kuss was caught out in the splits. Kuss started the stage as Jumbo-Visma’s second option in the overall, but tumbled out of the top-20, falling from sixth to 23rd overall after losing 10:18 on the decisive stage.

“For sure it’s not the way we wanted,” Roglič said. “At the end, I did it all to do the best I could.”

The attacks came fast and hard out of the GC group, with Marc Soler (Movistar), Carapaz, Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling), and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) all jumping clear with about 4km to go. By then, Roglič was isolated, and tried to limit his losses.

Carapaz clawed back enough time to move from third to first, and carry the leader’s jersey into Monday’s rest day with an 18-second lead to Carthy, and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) third at 20 seconds back.

“The Vuelta is still wide open,” Niermann said. “We’d rather be 5 seconds in front than 30 seconds behind. We are still in a good spot.”

Despite a new “state of alarm” issued Sunday by the Spanish national government, throwing more question marks about the immediate future of the Spanish grand tour, Roglič vows to fight on.

“As long as we are still in one piece, the show will go on,” he said “It is not finished yet, we’ll come back. We will always try to do our best. We are all here, and we will fight for it. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It is how it is, we still did our best.”

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