La Rochelle (AFP)
One yellow jersey, the other stage winner at Laruns.
The Primoz Roglic - Tadej Pogacar duo dominated the competition so much this weekend on the Tour de France that the biggest cycling race in the world could turn into a Slovenian duel.
Two million inhabitants only to produce the two best climbers in the Pyrenees: the Slovenian equation is the semi-surprise of this first week of the Tour.
"It's not really new, jokes RTV Slovenia journalist David Crmelj. At the Winter Olympics, we are each time one of the countries with the most medals per head."
The flight of Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar to snatch the bonuses in the last meters of the severe slopes of Marie-Blanque have removed the last doubts: the ex-ski jumper of 30 years and the nugget of 21 years are a leg above the others.
At least on this first part of the Great Loop.
But their trajectories are different: the leader of Jumbo got into cycling at the age of 23 when the young wolf of UAE made all his ranges in cycling.
- "Coincidence" -
And the consultant of RTV (broadcaster of the Tour de France in Slovenia) Martin Hvastija, himself a former rider who has competed twice in the Great Loop, has a formula to summarize their trajectories: "He says that Primoz fell from the sky, reports his David Crmelj middle school. Nobody could have predicted it, he came to cycling late. But Tadej went through all categories of cycling schools. He started at 9 years old. He is the product of Slovenian cycling ".
A sport where the mountainous republic had not particularly shone so far.
"Slovenian cycling has always been there but not at the level of the very best", recognizes Matej Mohoric (Bahrain) crowned world champion juniors (2012) and hopes (2013) under the colors of Slovenia.
"We have always had riders who finished at the front in World Tour races but never two great champions at the same time as now," he concedes.
Retired Simon Spilak had managed a few places, for example in Paris-Nice (4th in 2012, 3rd in 2015) but nothing very notable.
Despite its great sporting tradition and its results in alpine skiing, judo or athletics, Slovenia had never produced such steeds.
"I think it's only a coincidence, Primoz and Tadej are arriving at the same time," Mohoric analyzes, without really explaining.
- Shadow on the board -
Same feeling with his compatriot Jan Polanc, teammate of Pogacar at UAE Emirates: "It is possible to have good riders but it is very rare to have two champions like that in a position to win the Tour", notes t -he.
"I always said that we have good cycling schools in Slovenia. But when you are a champion, you are a champion and these guys obviously are," observes Polanc.
The shadow of this idyllic picture lies in the doping cases which have rocked Slovenian cycling in recent times.
Giro 2019 ephemeral pink jersey, Polanc spoke of a "sad moment for Slovenian cycling" when the Aderlass affair broke out in the Giro d'Italia last year.
As part of this blood doping network, two of his compatriots, Kristijan Koren and Borut Bozic, have since been suspended for two years each "for anti-doping rule violations committed in 2011 and 2012" by the international federation (UCI).
In spring 2019, the UCI also launched an investigation into another Slovenian, a man in the shadows, Milan Erzen, a former recruiter / coach who is still in the supervision of the Bahrain team.
Because of suspicions about his links with the German doctor Mark Schmidt, at the heart of the Aderlass affair.
© 2020 AFP