How Primož Roglič Let Everyone Down
July 17 was Stage 15 of this year's edition of the Tour de France, 200km of a mixed stage with two categorized climbs, numerous hills, and a lengthy flat segment before the sprint section. The following day, July 18th, was set for rest. In comparison to Stage 14, 15 was a cakewalk.
Primož Roglič at Stage 14.
Stage 14 featured 5 categorized climbs, which includes the Category 2 ascent to the finish line. Even the sprint section on Stage 14 was a monster hidden between hills. The main complaint riders had were not related to the route, but rather the 40 C (104 F) heat.
With all of the background information about the race calendar, it is odd that Primož Roglič opted to pull out after successfully finishing Stage 14 -- Ahead of Simon Clarke, Matej Mohorič, and Alexander Kristoff just to name a few. At the time of dropping, Roglič was in 21st place.
But the disappointment is not that such a notable rider dropped from the event just 6 stages from the conclusion. Many spectators put a spotlight on Team Jumbo-Visma as they were one of the three main contenders for the GC (Tadej "Unstoppable" Pogačar from UAE Team Emirates as the main contender, and the others being a toss-up between Geraint Thomas, Adam Yates, or Thomas Pidcock from Ineos Grenadiers -- As Ineos has been known to have a surprise leader in years past).
Although Tadej Pogačar is currently in second place, he is still the race favorite and trails by only a couple of minutes with half a dozen stages remaining. Jonas Vingegaard, also from Jumbo-Visma, is currently the race leader but is quickly losing supporting team members. Steven Kruijswijk left the race after a crash on Stage 15. Including Vingegaard, Jumbo-Visma only has 6 remaining riders and the closest in ranking is Sepp Kuss in 21st place compared to Ineos Grenadiers which has 3 riders in the top 10 spots.
Ineos Grenadiers currently leads the team ranking by more than 35 minutes and shows no signs of easing to Jumbo-Visma which is currently second in team rankings. The loss of Roglič means a lot more than just losing a team rider.
But none of that matters, Roglič let everyone down by treating the world's most prestigious race as a minor footnote in his overall career. In post-race interviews, the rider said that the tour was just preparation for the Vuelta a España that runs from August 19th to September 11th. Many riders treat a win at the Tour as a higher honor than winning gold at the Olympics. Billions of spectators worldwide watch the Tour every year. Meanwhile, anyone trying to find viewership statistics for the Vuelta will find the Tour de France used as the benchmark.
Riders crash, riders get injured, and that is one of the main qualities that set the sport apart from others such as football (soccer in the US) where riders act overtly dramatic when injured for penalty opportunities. In fact, the Tour created a special category for struggling riders that managed to finish the race, lanterne rouge. The term refers to the red light on the back of a vehicle and is seen as a badge of honor for people that fought tooth and nail to make it across the last finish line.
In 2018, Lawson Craddock made headlines after suffering a horrible crash on the first stage that led to a fractured scapula and nasty gash above his eye that required stitches. Many watched as the rider clenched his teeth across cobble stages, tried his best to maintain his position in time trials, and so forth. Craddock also won the US national time trial event this year but was not slotted on the roster to ride this year's Tour. Many amazing riders are not afforded the opportunity to attend the Tour, this year Mark Cavendish was even on the list of those left out.
The reason spectators were disappointed is that much more was expected from Roglič, as he is often referred to as the #1 Slovenian rider, with a more lengthy career than his current rival Tadej Pogačar. Yet, the rider opted to completely abandon the race and treated it as nothing more than another race on the calendar.