Primoz Roglic all but secured the Giro d’Italia title on Saturday by overtaking leader Geraint Thomas on the penultimate stage despite having a mechanical problem on the mountain time trial.
Roglic started the last important stage 26 seconds behind Thomas — who was trying to become the oldest Giro champion in history — but finished the time trial 40 seconds quicker than the British cyclist after the demanding climb of the Monte Lussari.
That saw Roglic move into the leader’s pink jersey, 14 seconds ahead of Thomas going into the race’s mainly ceremonial final stage.
Roglic was cheered on all the way by thousands of fans from just across the border to his native Slovenia. They packed the slopes of the brutal ascent up Monte Lussari, which had an elevation of more than 1,000 meters and gradients of up to 22%.
The 33-year-old celebrated at the end with his wife and son, who was wearing a replica of the pink jersey.
“Just something amazing, eh? It’s not at the end about the win itself, but about the people, and the energy here, so incredible, really moments to live and to remember,” said Roglic, who had tears in his eyes during the post-stage television interview, which he did with his son in his arms.
It will be a fourth Grand Tour victory for Roglic, who won the Vuelta three years in a row from 2019-2021.
Roglic also almost won the Tour de France in 2020, when he was leading going into another mountain time trial on the penultimate stage. But that time it was Roglic who lost time and the race to compatriot Tadej Pogacar in one of the most memorable upsets in a Grand Tour in recent years.
It appeared as if the Jumbo-Visma cyclist’s hopes were evaporating again when he rode over a pothole about halfway through the brutal climb up Monte Lussari and his chain came off, meaning he had to quickly change bicycles.
His teammates and staff had their hands over their heads in disbelief.
Despite that setback, Roglic — who had been 16 seconds ahead of Thomas at the previous intermediate time check — went on to increase his advantage.
“I dropped the chain, I mean it’s part of it,” he said. “But I got started again and I just went … I had the legs, the people gave me extra (energy).”
Roglic won the stage ahead of Thomas. Almeida was third, 42 seconds slower.