Primož Roglič made up for last year’s disappointment at Paris-Nice, retaining what should have been a more certain victory which unexpectedly tense in the final stage, with bad weather and a serious threat from Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) on the Col d’Eze.
Roglič, with help from Jumbo-Visma teammate Wout van Aert, almost single-handedly closed the gap Yates had at the finish. hung on to take the overall with a 29-second lead over Yates.
Last year, a pair of crashes on the final stage ended Roglič’s hopes of winning the WorldTour race and dropped him from first to 15. Sunday’s stage felt at one point as if it could be another disappointment, and the Slovenian admitted he didn’t have the power he needed on the final climb of the day.
“I don’t go without a bit of drama, huh?” he joked in the post-stage interview. “Again, it was super tough the last one, but I have to admit that this year I’m happier than last year after the stage.
“I was tired from the start. I also put on far too many clothes and cooked myself. When I took them off it was better, but too late. Still, it was good enough to achieve this for what we came here.
“So it’s really a big thank you to my whole team and especially Wout here at the end, added Roglič. Half human, half engine. I would say Wout can do anything.”
“He’s a classy rider and super strong. I always say that I’m happy and proud to be able to learn something from him and ride alongside him.”
“Half human, half motor” was the same compliment Roglič paid teammate Rohan Dennis after stage 6. Two days ago, the stage that took the peloton up the Col de la Mure, the Col de Sambuc and the Col de l’Espigoulier, saw Van Aert retire early and Roglič ended the day isolated and had to cover the attacks on his own.
On Sunday, Van Aert not only stayed with Roglič until the final climb, but helped nullify Yates’ lead which had momentarily threatened to stretch into a virtual general classification before shrinking to a handful of seconds on line.
“I definitely didn’t feel strong enough, admitted Roglič. It was steep and I had no power. I was in real pain and struggling on the climb to limit losses.
“Luckily I knew Wout had a great day and he really, really helped me a lot until the finish.”
For his part, Van Aert said he always planned to stay with Roglič for as long as possible. He added that the team’s plan had never been in trouble before the Col d’Eze, but said “that’s why we’re teammates”, referring to the help he provided in Roglic.
“It was a scenario that I would stay as long as possible with Primož, to be the last to help him, Van Aert said. We tried to control the race as long as possible, which was quite difficult for all of these We never had to hunt and we were always safe on the descents, which was a great job for everyone.
“In the final I thought it was a good situation with a few guys and I hoped Primož had the legs he always has, but I think he suffered a bit today. normal that – I won’t call it a bad day because we were second and third at the end – but maybe he was a bit low on energy at the end But yeah, that’s why we we are teammates.
“Everyone remembers how it went last year and it’s one of the big goals for the team this year. It’s Primož’s biggest goal this spring; is prepared in Tenerife and I’m happy to be part of it.”
Much has been made of Roglič, who lives in Monaco, racing his local training roads again after winning at the top of his frequent Col de Turini climb on Saturday, but he said it was not an advantage.
“Home race, home roads, but that didn’t make it much easier today, did it? I’m happy, definitely,” he concluded.