Slovenian cyclist Primož Roglič confirmed this week that he is leaving for the Vuelta, where he will defend last year’s victory.
In front of the Spanish loop, which this time will be “only” 18 stages, there are many questions that have not been answered yet. Also the Spanish Minister of Health Salvador Illa told the Spanish media recently that the situation is in the country “worrying, unstable and fragile”.
The old continent has found itself in a new wave of infections, and Spain is being followed by the aftermath of the first wave in March, April and May. That is why many things are still unclear a few days before the start of the 75th performance of the Vuelta. For now, the rule of two positive tests on individual testing applies, during which the team will have to leave the race in Spain. Much like on the Tour a few weeks ago. It is different on the Giro, where the rules are a bit looser and which is still going on and will partially overlap with the Vuelta in the first week.
At the Giro, teams can decide for themselves based on test results whether to continue with the Giro or not. Roglič’s Jumbo-Visma team also had the opportunity to test for the new Dutch coronavirus after a positive test. Stevena Kruijswijka continues the race, but after a joint consultation of the riders, professional staff and leading men, they decided to resign before the tenth stage.
The Dutch had less chance of winning together, as Kruijswijk was their best husband in the positive test, and they had no other solutions there. However, the question arises as to how the team will proceed in the event of new positive tests on Spanish roads, as there is an inappropriately more competitive team traveling there in the fight for high places.
Jumbo-Visma bets on the Dumoulin-Roglič duo. With good reason, the Dutchman is listed as the first, as he is going there in the role of captain, while Kisovčan, who will celebrate his 31st birthday during the Vuelta, will perform there in the role of super assistant. This is the case before the race, and the road will show who is stronger, the Dutch team leaves the door closed.
The butterfly from Maastricht, as the nickname Dumoulin reads, performed the role of Roglič’s assistant perfectly on the Tour, and in the end he took the yellow jersey to the Dutch and took the overall victory in the hour of truth. Tadej Pogačar.
This time last year, the third in the overall standings will not be on the Vuelta. Namely, Pogačar finished the season after the Tour and two classics in the Belgian Ardennes, while Roglič will continue it in the desire to defend last year’s victory. This time too, the competition will be somewhat reduced, and the Ecuadorians are mentioned among the biggest names in the fight for the red shirt. Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), French Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Spaniard Enric Mas (Movistar). It will also be interesting to follow the four-time Tour winner Chris Froom (Ineos Grenadiers), and the Slovenians will be at the start Grega Bole in Matej Mohorič (both Bahrain-McLaren) who will chase stage wins.
Why such a decline in the fight for the red shirt? Some are performing at the Giro, while others have dedicated the early autumn to the biggest otherwise spring classics, which have been postponed due to the new coronavirus pandemic. The third ones have spent too much power on the Tour and will be in different roles on the Vuelta.
While Dumoulin is still returning to the right form, Roglič is in a series of three three-week races, which he completed on the winners’ stage. The 2019 Giro finished in third place, winning last year’s Vuelta, and this year the Tour, albeit with a slightly bitter aftertaste, finished in second place.
However, after the efforts on the Tour, it would be surprising if Roglič was so fresh as to sweep the rivals. The wind in the sails could otherwise represent his first victory at one of the five cycling “monuments” on Liege-Bastogne-Lieg. There, the former ski jumper received confirmation that he is in great shape.
Roglič obviously has enough dynamite in his legs in the short season, which only started with his appearances at the national championship at the end of June, and it will be interesting to follow the team dynamics through 18 stages on the way to Madrid. If the caravan will get there at all with the many measures taken by individual Spanish regions.
Among other things, some areas are completely closed, such as Navarre, where the infestation is greatest, and the cities of Salamanca and Ourense, where two of the 18th stages will start and end in the last week, are also in question. The route has already undergone many changes, as this year’s one should have partly taken place in Portugal, but the authorities there refused to organize such a big event.
In a season that has not been similar to any other so far, it will probably not be possible without additional twists, as the Giro has already shown, where infections have intervened among cyclists. Italy is currently less affected by covida-19 than Spain, where more than 10,000 infections a day have been recorded in the last four days, with a total of one million infections already approaching.
While the competitions were canceled in the spring due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus, for now the organizers are deciding on their performances in bubbles. Just before the start of the Spanish loop, cycling experts can still deal with the question of who will stand on the top step in Madrid on November 8th.
How long, in addition to the road, will also be decided by the epidemiological picture in Spain.