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Cycling is cruel.
Fast forward through two big crashes and seven grinding stages, the Slovenian is licking the wounds dealt to his GC challenge.
The race hasn’t even reached the mountains and it looks like Roglič’s chances of riding into Paris with the yellow jersey have all but gone after he lost almost four minutes to Tadej Pogačar on the road to Le Creusot.
With the time he’d already lost earlier in the week, Roglič is now over five minutes behind the leading GC contender – Pogačar.
Roglič lost quite a significant amount of skin when he tangled handlebars with Sonny Colbrelli on stage 3, sending him flying into the roadside gravel. He posted a fairly jovial picture of himself bandaged nearly head to toe after the incident, but the smile most likely belied the pain and discomfort he’s felt on the bike.
“We hoped that he could survive, but we all knew that he had a really bad crash, and he suffered a lot in the last days. We hoped he went a bit better, but in the end, it was not enough to recover. We have to see what has happened and then we will make a new plan,” said Jumbo-Visma sport director Frans Maassen after the stage.
“I think we have to be realistic, but we will have to see tonight. I will have to speak with him, but he lost time to the big favorites, and you saw him suffering so I think it will be over for the GC. We have to speak with all the guys tonight and then we will have to make a new plan.”
Roglic entra hundido y lo primero que hace es darle un bidón a un niño que se lo pide desde las vallas. Le queremos. pic.twitter.com/gnMPjCzmkj
— cronoescalada.com (@cronoescalada) July 2, 2021
After his solid performance in Wednesday’s time trial, Roglič may have hoped it signalled an improvement ahead of a pair of key mountain stages this weekend. However, he was soon in trouble on the steep early slopes of the Signal d’Uchon as he slipped off the back.
It’s a position that we’ve rarely seen Roglič in, but a man can only deal with so much pain. The loss of skin may also have taken its toll with some sleepless nights over recent days.
Speaking to journalists ahead of the longest stage of the Tour de France on Friday, Roglič told journalists that he still had a significant amount of pain in his back, as well as in his coccyx – which can’t be comfortable during a long day on the bike – though he tried to put a positive spin on it.
“I was quite lucky with some easier stages and today we will see how it goes. For sure I will fight, and I will have to get through,” he said. “The main pain is in my back and my tail bone because I crashed really hard on my back and my ribs. This is the most painful and annoying.
“It affects you everywhere. I’m not comfortable, even if I don’t do anything and I sit on the bike it’s not nice. It’s something that I have to accept, but it’s getting better and I’m optimistic, so we go.”
Roglič is not completely out of the GC contest, and a solid result is still well within his grasp, but the coming days depend on what he now wants to do for the rest of the race.
Jumbo-Visma will be planning furiously ahead of the weekend’s stages, deciding whether or not Roglič will keep pushing for the GC or take a different approach. The team’s plans may already have been made quite clear after they left Roglič to chase alone after he was dropped.
Is that a sign of things to come?
Wout van Aert is currently sitting second overall after moving up the standings as a result of making it into the breakaway. The Belgian is an excellent rider and could nab yellow Saturday — though that might be wishful thinking — but he admitted that he’s a bit too heavy compared to the climbers to countenance challenging for the GC.
— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) July 2, 2021
The team still has an overall hope in the young Jonas Vingegaard, who was only called up for the Tour de France when Tom Dumoulin pulled the plug on his participation. Vingegaard also came down in the crash with Roglič but appears to be much less injured.
Vingagaard has shown himself to be a very strong GC rider this season after finishing second overall at the Itzulia Basque Country in April.
His time trial is one of the strongest in the GC pack, too, but he is untested in that role at this level. Still, he could be the team’s only chance for a big result if Roglič continues to struggle.
Unless Friday was a mere “un jour sans” for Roglič, it’s hard to imagine that he won’t give away yet more time over the big mountains of the next two days. Injuries like his don’t disappear in a moment.
The next two days will be key for Roglič’s GC hopes.
If he can hold onto the big names on the climbs, then maybe there is something to salvage in terms of an overall result. However, if he loses more time then he needs to switch up his approach.
There is every chance he decides that the injuries are too much, and he wants to save himself for the Olympic Games but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Jumbo-Visma will surely want him to lend a hand to protecting Vingegaard in the mountains, but he could also be let off the leash in the hope of a stage win later in the race. While it won’t ease the disappointment of losing his shot at yellow, a stage victory or two might prove some consolation.