Spain in 2019, France in 2020? Primoz Roglic became the first Slovenian to win a big cycling Tour by winning the Vuelta 2019 on Sunday 15 September. He is already planning, with his Jumbo-Visma team, the ultimate goal: to compete with the all-powerful formation Ineos on the Tour de France.
Presented as the favorite of the 74th edition of the Tour of Spain three weeks ago, 29-year-old Roglic has lived up to the expectations of finishing on the final podium the Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), second, and his young compatriot Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Emirates), third. He succeeds Briton Simon Yates, absent this year.
"Rogla", a red jersey that has not stopped since its triumph in the only individual time trial of this Tour of Spain, during the 10th stage, was unquestionably the strongest throughout the three weeks of the race.
Sunday, at the end of the traditional parade punctuated by a sprint on the Paseo del Prado in Madrid, the Slovenian crossed the line arm in arm with his teammates, while the Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick Step) won the 21st and last step.
He then climbed on the podium in place of Cybele with a Slovenian flag and a beautiful smile, far from his usual impassive face that makes it so difficult to pin down. Man of few words, he has also confessed to have "not much to say" at the microphone.
"Thank you to my family for their support and thank you to everyone involved in this tremendous achievement, see you soon in other races," he said.
This Vuelta is for the former ski jumper the culmination of a successful moult to road cycling, where his driving skills and resistance in the mountains make it a natural favorite for great tours. Symbol of his progress, he took the 4th place in the Tour de France in 2018, then the 3rd of the Tour of Italy in the spring after wearing the pink leader's jersey.
The Vuelta will have tested his mind but the Slovenian has recovered from everything, including several falls, the first of them in the inaugural team time trial. And Roglic has perfectly mastered his opponents, surrounded by a well-honed collective.
Because this coronation also materializes the growing ambition of the Dutch team Jumbo-Visma, who had not won a big Tour of three weeks since the Giro 2009 with the Russian Denis Menchov, at the time under the label Rabobank.
In July, on the Tour de France, the yellow armada of "Jumbo" was one of the few teams to compete with Ineos, the former Sky team, placing Steven Kruijswijk on the third step of the podium.
In 2020, the Dutch should be even more ambitious since they recruited Tom Dumoulin, winner of the Giro 2017. They also extended the contract of Roglic until 2023 and have a workforce likely to compete with the "black train" from Ineos in the passes.
The Pogacar revelation
It remains to be seen if the team will align all its best elements on the Great Loop. Asked on Saturday whether he was planning to run for the yellow jersey next year, Roglic smiled: "Yes, why not?"
Also winner of the green jersey of this Vuelta, the native of Trbovlje has highlighted for three weeks the Slovenian cycling, well supported by the revelation of the test: Tadej Pogacar, 20 years. That's 19 years younger than the third, Valverde, on the Vuelta podium for the seventh time in his long career.
Pogacar won three stages of high mountain, the white jersey of the best young and third place overall. The young Slovenian promises to be a rival of the future for the Colombian Egan Bernal, 22 years old, recent winner of the Tour de France.
As for the blue jersey white polka dot best climber, it was won by an unexpected winner: the French Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), which was 27 years the first participation in a grand tour.