The team is new, the business of winning the Tour de France is still very serious, but the self-deprecation remains resolutely intact.
Before the questions started at Bora-Hansgrohe’s media day in Mallorca on Wednesday, Primož Roglič leaned across to head sports director Rolf Aldag with a conspiratorial grin. “You have a lot of words, you speak good,” he said. “I’m super happy to sit here and just say ‘yes’, ‘no,’ and smile…”
Roglič’s comfort in the spotlight has increased immeasurably, of course, since his first, hesitant interactions with fame on arriving in the WorldTour in 2016, while Aldag pointed to the Slovenian’s communication skills as one of the most striking elements from his early weeks at Bora-Hansgrohe.
“Primož talks to everybody, he’s open to everybody, and he suggests things that could be better,” Aldag said. “To be that active and outspoken is unique. He’s positive, he gets people on board. It’s not the usual way when a superstar comes to a new team.”
Aldag, for his part, has done his bit to get Roglič on board with the novel idea of taking a fresh approach to planning his season. Rather than aim at amassing his usual slew of victories across the calendar, Roglič’s entire programme has been retrofitted around the Tour de France.
Any success before July, in other words, will be a byproduct of his Tour preparation rather than a goal in and of itself, and Aldag has little interest in gauging his progression against Jonas Vingegaard, Tadej Pogačar and Remco Evenepoel before then. “Where we want to clash with the ‘Big Four’ is at the Tour de France,” Aldag explained, a point Roglič supported.
“The key point is going for the Tour de France. For everything in between, it’s a bonus or a plus if you can achieve good results,” Roglič said. “But mostly, you need to stay healthy and happy, and then the rest will follow.”
Roglič will start his season in March at either Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico. It is expected he will also ride Itzulia Basque Country, while Aldag confirmed that he will line out at the Critérium du Dauphiné rather than the Tour de Suisse. All those races, meanwhile, will be preceded by long spells at altitude. “Unfortunately for his family, he will spend a lot of time somewhere on a volcano,” Aldag said.
Roglič spent much of his hour of media availability on Wednesday fielding questions about his departure from Jumbo-Visma last Autumn, which was confirmed after he placed third behind teammates Sepp Kuss and Vingegaard at the Vuelta a España. Earlier in the year, Roglič had won the Giro d’Italia, but he was left out of the Tour squad.
“It’s hard to pick a day or a date when I decided to change team, it was building up for a longer period of time, and, at the end, it was quite simple for myself and the team to separate the ways,” Roglič said. “Now I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter, let’s say, with a new team.”
Roglič was his inimitably straightforward self when asked what it would take to beat his old teammate Vingegaard in July.
“You can speak a lot about cycling, about power and watts, but at the end of the day, you have to finish a bit in front of the guy,” he laughed. “Let’s say that’s the aim.”
He was similarly succinct when asked if his intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Visma-Lease A Bike would prove an advantage in helping Bora-Hansgrohe overcome Vingegaard, Kuss et al. at the Tour.
“It’s stupid now to think about it. I have to focus on my job, we just have to do what we can do,” he said. “We don’t manage Team Jumbo-Visma. They will do what they will do.”
Roglič has, mind, brought a piece of Jumbo-Visma with him to Bora-Hansgrohe, with coach Marc Lamberts following him to his new team. The Slovenian smiled when a Belgian reporter asked how Wout van Aert felt about losing his coach.
“Changes are a part of life, eh,” Roglič said. “For me, he’s important, not just from the training side. He brings a lot of knowledge and information about everything, so it makes the transition a bit smoother, and it feels more like home because I have been working with him from the start in 2016.”
Tour de France
Bora-Hansgrohe outlined the broad brushstrokes of their Tour de France line-up on Wednesday, with 2022 Giro winner Jai Hindley and Aleksandr Vlasov set to serve as deluxe domestiques for Roglič. Daníel Martínez and Lennard Kämna could also feature, depending on how they emerge from leading the line at this year’s Giro. On paper, at least, Roglič will be flanked by a team capable of going toe to toe with Visma and UAE Team Emirates.
“I’m confident,” Roglič said when asked about his prospects in July. “I mean, we have a clear goal of what to work for, and it has to be the highest possible. Then it’s just about executing it, doing everything for it every day.
“We shouldn’t be afraid or nervous about the result or the outcome. It will be what it will be, eh. The main point is that we do our best on a daily basis. With that, we’ll definitely all leave happy.”
Roglič was reluctant to dwell too deeply on the intricacies of the Tour route – “You have to take the chance when it comes” – though he acknowledged that the final-day time trial, which starts in his adopted home of Monaco, held a special resonance. The 34-year-old has seen both sides of the coin in late time trials at Grand Tours, after all.
“I have all kinds of experiences with last time trials,” he said. “You have to be positive, so I’m looking forward to that one.”
Roglič’s relationship with the Tour has been a complicated one since he landed a stage victory on his debut in 2017. A year later, he slipped off the podium in the final time trial in the Basque Country, while in 2020, he suffered the heightened agony of losing the yellow jersey to his compatriot Tadej Pogacar at La Planche des Belles Filles. His challenges in 2021 and 2022, meanwhile, were ruined by crashes, but Roglič insisted the race was not an obsession.
“No, not really. It’s more like a cherry on the cake,” he said. “You can’t take away the wins I already have. I’m missing the Tour, of course, so it’s a logical step to go fully for it, and I have the opportunity here. It’s just an honour and a pleasure to be in the place to do that.”
It’s early, of course, but Roglič looks to be fitting in just fine with his German squad. Aldag explained how the new leader had made an early impression by recommending a simplification of the options on the dinner at training camp: “He said we don’t need to have five kinds of salads at the buffet.”
Roglič, meanwhile, speaks some of the language, a residue from his ski jumping career – “I used to spend my whole wintertime in German-speaking countries” – and he also knows how to keep the sponsors happy. After Aldag was asked about the prospect of Red Bull taking a 51% stake in the team, Roglič added his own kicker.
“Yeah, Red Bull gives you wings, eh…” he said. “In my previous sport, I would be super happy, I would fly a bit more.”