Primož Roglič overcame a bike problem to blitz the time trial and seal overall victory in the Giro d’Italia, with the Slovenian ending the penultimate day 14 seconds clear of previous leader Geraint Thomas. Ireland’s Eddie Dunbar looks set for a superb seventh-place overall when the race finishes in Rome tomorrow, slipping from fifth overall in Saturday’s time trial but staying well inside his pre-race goal of a top 10 finish overall.
Dunbar is leading a team for the first time this season and is riding only the second Grand Tour of his career. The experience will greatly strengthen him mentally and physically, making his future races all the more successful.
Roglič started the stage 26 seconds behind Thomas, positioning the Welshman as the favourite for the title. Roglič had to overcome that deficit and also banish the ghosts of his penultimate day collapse in the 2020 Tour de France, when he looked set to win but had a horror of a time trial. Fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogačar went on to scoop that Tour instead.
Thomas appeared faster on the flat first section of the time trial, although a slower bike change plus a decision to switch his helmet cost him some seconds. However Roglič was clearly quicker on the wall-like final climb and was chomping through his deficit when he had an unexpected mechanical. His chain came off and he had to dismount, put it back on and get going again.
However the accident seemed to spur him on, with the 33 year old quickly building his advantage once more and scorching home. Thomas dug in but crossed the finish line 40 seconds slower, ending the day 14 seconds back overall.
“It is just something amazing. It is not in the end about win itself, but about the people,” said Roglič, seldom a man of many words. “The energy here is incredible. Moments to live and remember.”
He spoke about the mechanical issue with calmness. “I dropped the chain. It is part of it. I didn’t fear at all, I put it back and I started again. I just went. For sure I didn’t want that these things happen. I had the legs and the people gave me extra watts.”
There is still one day to go but the final stage is a flat 126 kilometres concluding with six laps of a circuit in Rome. A bunch sprint is almost guaranteed. Still, Roglič doesn’t take anything for granted. “One more day to go, one more focus, because I think the [finishing] lap is quite technical. It is not over until it is finished but it looks good.”
Thomas won the Tour de France in 2018 and had appeared set to add the Giro d’Italia to his career tally. However the 37 year old said he didn’t quite have it on the day.
“I could feel my legs going about a K and a half from the top of that climb,” he said. “I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses, but I just didn’t feel like I had that real grunt. I guess it is nice to lose by that much rather than a second or two, because that would be worse.
“To be honest Primož deserves that. He had a mechanical as well and still put 40 seconds into me.”
Dunbar finished 19th in the time trial, 3′03 behind Roglič. His Jayco-AlUla team has praised his seventh place overall, regarding it as a highly encouraging result for the future.
Fellow Irishman Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) was 26th on Saturday’s stage and ends up third in the King of the Mountains classification.
Still just 22, he had a highly impressive Grand Tour debut, winning stage eight, finishing as runner-up on stage 15 and wearing the best climber’s jersey for two days.
Like Dunbar, he will be stronger in his next three week race.