Heat and humidity of the Tiber. The finish of the Giro mimics the finishes in July of the Tour, and a sprint over the sampietrini, the uneven stones that pave the streets of the capital, which gives Mark Cavendish, from Astana, launched by Fernando Gaviria, from Movistar, and by his friend Geraint Thomas, from Ineos, his first victory in this edition, the 17th of his life in the corsican pink, and the 38-year-old boy from the Isle of Man is moved and says, “I have the Giro and Italy in my heart, and winning the last stage that I am competing in is exciting”. And, later, the coronation of Primoz Roglic in pink in Rome, next to the Colosseum, the arena of gladiators like him, on his pink bike, by Sergio Mattarella, President of the Republic. He is accompanied on the podium by Thomas, 37, second, 14s behind, and the Portuguese João Almeida, 24, third, 1m 15s behind.
36 hours before. There is not a single light on the streets of Kranjska Gora, a blind city at midnight on Friday, but the huge parking lot shared by the Ramada and the Kompas, the hotels where they sleep on the eve of the time trial that will decide the Thomas Giro, still pink, and Roglic, dazzles like a movie set illuminated with the energy of electric generators. Trucks and buses parked. Cars-kitchen-dining room. Vans. Mechanics, masseurs, nutritionists, Jumbo and Ineos trainers work. They will do it until so many, until almost the light of the dawn, that there, a valley to 800 meters of altitude surrounded by mountains, pure Alps, arrives soon, to five. Just descended from the Three Peaks of Lavaredo, three hours on the road and frightening storms and the water hiding the road, they have to prepare four bikes per runner, a plan for each one, food, massage, head.
Around the Jumbo truck, a few dozen fans watch the work, record it with their phones, check wheels and gears, of those who prepare the machines for their Roglic, who tries to sleep a few meters away, at the Kompas, the same hotel where the one who when he was a youth, and a ski jumper, concentrated with the Slovenian team, on the banks of the newborn Sava, the river that separates the Balkans from Central Europe, the heart of the Austro-Hungarian empire. A stone’s throw away, the Planica springboard, the place where he began to be a cyclist, in 2007, an 18-year-old boy who had never ridden a bicycle. The place from which 16 years later, one Saturday morning in May just dawned, he left, a night of nostalgia in his head, for Tarvisio, 20 minutes by car, the place where fate had so symbolically decided that, winning the Giro in his second attempt, would close a vital circle, and would open another in a kind of rebirth.
At first it was an accident. Images a million times repeated. plan. Roglic, wide-eyed, defiant, carefree, and the ever-sharp nose, launches himself down the 90-meter diving board. He begins to fly, light, almost winged, in the light air, but in mid-flight he loses his balance, his skis no longer form the plane that supports him, he plummets like a bird with a wounded wing. He lands on the hard ice slope, a twisting and turning shred to the bottom of the mountain, where he stops. “It was exciting to sleep in Kranjska Gora, where, so close to that springboard, I had lived for a long time. It was like coming home to the most important day of the year,” says Roglic, already dressed in pink, shortly after winning the Giro by passing Thomas on the wild Monte Lussari. As Purito and Nairo will well remember, who started the last time trial of a Giro in pink and finished second by a breath, 16s and 31s, respectively, behind Hesjedal and Dumoulin, in the last three time trials of the Giro there has been the surprise.
At 8.15 in the morning, on Saturday, several fans take a selfie with Roglic, who gets into his team’s car to go to recognize the final climb. “Being a person that people support regardless of the result is tremendous, a source of pride,” he says. He leaves his house with the people from his house. Half an hour later, in the same parking lot, Thomas, a short mustache, aerodynamically, like Roglic’s up to the level of a bozo, tries to climb, anonymously, one more worker, into an Ineos van with three lunch boxes and two plastic cutlery in hands. The cutlery falls to the floor. Slowly, without losing his cool, he puts the lunch boxes on the seat and turns to pick up the spoon and fork. With them in hand, he climbs the steps of the dining truck and returns a few seconds later, not quickening his pace for a moment, with a metal spoon. The same calm throughout the Giro. The same calm with which he changes his bike and with which he accumulates white salt, the daughter of his drying sweat, in his shorts and pink jersey, open to the navel, and how white his chest, on the climb up the that he will lose, calmly, the Giro.
“When I had the accident I was too young and I had no fear of it,” says Roglic, years later in a Eurosport documentary. “At that age I thought, of course, that I could do whatever I wanted, fly 200 meters, whatever. I saw no limits. Only later do you learn that there are always limits, and that it is necessary to respect them, that by not believing in them is when you make mistakes, and you fall”.
He broke his nose and suffered a serious concussion from which he recovered, but, although he trained again with the same intensity, even more, even more, for three years, and apparently, so the medical tests said, he had physically healed. And mentally, he never jumped the same way he did before, when he became world youth team champion in the same Planica. Less gifted skiers jumped more than him. “There came a time when I realized that he had had too much. I lost motivation”, says the Slovenian. “He was already 21 years old and he knew that he would never be an Olympic champion in jumping. He decided to leave it. The time had come to change, to let go of a life that had taught me a lot. The time has come to do something different.”
At the age of 21, Roglic changes his profession. He becomes a cyclist. Fate pulls him, and his sweat, his desire, his perseverance, his hope. “It’s about always fighting,” he says. He is already 33 years old. The cyclist with the strangest race — at the beginning he didn’t know how to ride in a peloton or let go of his hands to grab the refreshment bag and he didn’t even eat in the races, and even so, at the age of 27 he managed to convince the Jumbo crew to They signed him, and, biblically, in the Dutch team, he grew and multiplied—along with this Giro, in 2023 in which he has won everything he has raced, he already has at home, where he lives with his wife, Lora, and two small children, the trophies of three Vueltas, one Liège, one Olympic gold, two Tyrrhenians, two Romandies, one Dauphiné, one Paris-Nice, one Volta, two Itzulias… A record that few in history have equaled. It has risen to the top at precisely the time of the great change in cycling, the arrival, the seizure of power by the angry youngsters of generation Z, Pogacar, Van der Poel, Van Aert, Evenepoel, Vingegaard, and among them. not only does he survive, he feels like one of them despite the difference in age, and finds his place.
From Monte Lussari, 1,700 meters above Tarvisio, you can see Planica and also, metaphorically, the Planche des Belles Filles, the place where the Tour told him clearly that it did not love him through another blow. This time, not physical, moral. He comes out favorite to win the Tour, in yellow, in the time trial, and loses it to Pogacar. Two falls in the following two Tours deny him in the big one loop the right to redeem himself, to demonstrate, as he says, the lesson he had learned from that bitter defeat. In the Giro that he wins, he also falls twice and he too is afraid of not finishing, fate playing hide-and-seek again. But in the end, his Giro de paciencia, of waiting only for the 20th stage and his mount, the lesson he learned from the lost Tour, succeeds. Released, he cries as he hugs all of his teammates, who become emotional.
“You always have to fight against obstacles,” sums up Roglic. “We must never lose hope”.