Primoz Roglic’s bid to win the 2021 Tour de France ended with the Slovenian’s departure on Sunday before the first mountaintop finish in Tignes, in the Alps.
Last year’s runner-up fell 35 minutes behind 2020 champion Tadej Pogacar on Saturday, as the balance of a steep crash on stage 3 finally ruined his best intentions for a win here.
“There was no point continuing as I was,” said former ski jumper Roglic after a vibrant first week of racing caused dire consequences among the winners in the 21-day race.
A sports director told AFP that the type of fall that Roglic suffered takes at least five days to recover due to the impact on the body, and cyclists wake up stiff as a board for up to a week after that blow.
Heavily brushed in his crash on Monday Roglic gradually dropped down the standings and after Friday’s wild 250km high-speed chase, he looked embarrassed as he missed a beat on the first mountain as the race entered the Alps on Saturday.
Roglic was not the only one to suffer a beating during the first week, as Britain’s Geraint Thomas also finished Saturday’s stage 35 minutes after embarking from the Atlantic port of Brest last Saturday as a clear title challenger.
By contrast, defending champion Tadej Pogacar thrived as the world’s largest cycle race diagonally traversed France from its western end in the fortified port of Brittany to the elegant ski resorts along the Swiss border.
Massive drops and constant attacking tactics have reversed the codes a bit on this edition of the tour, leaving little breathing space for rest, as conservative riding suddenly seems like a pandemic as younger riders assert their will.
To top it off, the 22-year-old UAE captain pulverized rivals in Saturday’s race up Colombieres Mountain in the rain, donning the yellow jersey in such an ominous way that the result seems like a formality despite 13 remaining stages.
La Montagne, the Haute-Savoie regional newspaper famous for Evian water and melted cheese dishes, headlined its front page on Sunday with “Pogacar Smashes the Tour.”
Roglic would be well aware of what could happen if he continued here, as he himself was pulverized on the 20th day of the 2020 Tour when Pogacar produced the sporting surprise of the year to knock Roglic out of first place and claim the legendary yellow winners jersey in Paris. .
Sunday’s 144km race takes the peloton above the clouds as it reaches the 2,100m altitude summit in Tignes.
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