Roglič Rewrites History with Huge Giro d’Italia Comeback

Monte Lussari – Italy – cycling – Primoz Roglic (SLO / Team Jumbo-Visma) pictured during Giro dÕItalia 2023 – 106th Edition – stage – 20 fromTarvisio to Monte Lussari ITT (18.6km) – 27/05/2023 – Photo: Miwa iijima/Cor Vos © 2023

Despite a dropped chain on the final climb, Primož Roglič won both the stage 20 time trial on Monte Lussari and the Giro d’Italia 2023 in dramatic fashion. The Slovenian lost around 15 seconds due to the incident but Geraint Thomas did not have enough watts and cracked in the final part of the climb that seemed to never end for the Welshman.

Giro d’Italia Stage 20 ITT 2023 profile by La Flamme Rouge

Monte Lussari probably is the hardest climb in cycling as it is very steep with a poor road surface, making even Roglič and Thomas look slow whilst pushing over 6 w/kg. That being said, it is hard for anyone to ride on 19-21% gradients and look like they are flying to the naked eye. The false flat 10.8 kilometres at the start were done with a time-trial bike while before the climb the riders changed to a road bike – Geraint Thomas even changed his helmet (very slowly), saving weight and making his head cooler for the climb.

It was a near-perfect 15 degree temperature on the climb for climbing. On such a steep climb even lower temperatures might have been better as riders are going so slow that there is very little cooling from air resistance like on a 7-8% gradient. On the climb, Thomas lost 37 seconds to Roglič, doing 6.26ᵉW/Kg for 29:27 min. The chain drop cost the Slovenian around 15 seconds or 0.05 ᵉW/Kg (including the time when the bike stopped and the lost time due to inertia). Without it he would have beaten Thomas by 52 seconds in the time trial or 0.20 ᵉW/Kg on the climb.

Roglič’ 6.46 ᵉW/Kg* for 28:35 min (excluding time lost to the mechanical) is not that impressive by 2023 standards but it was enough to win against Thomas for whom this was the worst possible climb as a bigger GC rider. It is not a surprise that the very difficult third week prior to this time trial took its toll on the riders compared to ‘fresh’ performances earlier in the year.

There were no big surprises in this time trial. Sepp Kuss had the second-best climbing time while the 21-year-old American Matthew Riccitello, who already pushed good watts in the Tour of the Alps, was eighth fastest on the climb which suited a sub-60-kg rider very well.

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There have not been many mountain time trials at the WorldTour level since 2014. Ollon Villars featured twice in Romandie (2018 and 2022), Monte Grappa (2014), Alpe di Siusi (2016) and Monte Lussari (2023) in the Giro d'Italia, Krabellin (2016) in the Basque Country and La Planche des Belles Filles (2020) in the Tour. It is hard to compare them to each other as some of them had more kilometres before the climb like in the 2020 Tour or the Krabellin ITT started with a climb and concluded with 10 kilometres of descending and false flat. The only true mountain time trial with just a climb in it was in the 2018 Ollon Villars ITT.

Even in the Foliforov time trial, the first kilometres were false flat and the climb was at a middle altitude which is why we calculated his performance at 6.48 ᵉW/Kg for 25:40min but equivalent to 6,85 ᵉW/Kg at sea level. Would the 2016 Foliforov win the 2023 Monte Lussari time-trial? Probably not because of his equipment and position on the false flat kilometres at the start of today's stage but he would have been very close to Roglič.

Roglič in 2018 did the Ollon Villars ITT at 6.76 ᵉW/Kg for 25:14 min, losing only 4 seconds to Egan Bernal. On paper a superior performance to today, but it was the third stage of Romandie before the mountain days and it was a pure mountain TT, while Monte Lusari was after three weeks with multiple 4500-5200 kilojoules days in high mountains in the last few days.

Yverdon-les-Bains - Swiss - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Primoz ROGLIC (Slowenia / Team Lotto NL - Jumbo) pictured during the 72nd Tour de Romandie (2.UWT) stage 3 from Ollon to Villars (9.9 KM) ITT Tim Tril individuele tijdrit tijdrijden - photo RenŽ Vigneron/Cor Vos © 2018

Would the 2023 Giro Roglič lose to Pogačar in the 2020 Tour ITT? Yes, in terms of the stage, but it would have been very close between keeping or losing the yellow jersey. Nonetheless, Roglič has won the Giro and now only the Tour de France is left. The Slovenian has won 6 out of the 7 big one-week races (1x Paris-Nice, 2x Tirreno-Adriatico, 1x Volta a Catalunya, 2x Basque Country, 2x Tour de Romandie, 1x Criterium du Dauphine) and only the Tour de Suisse is left from those.

Monte Lussari - Italy - cycling - Primoz Roglic (SLO / Team Jumbo-Visma) pictured during Giro dÕItalia 2023 - 106th Edition - stage - 20 fromTarvisio to Monte Lussari ITT (18.6km) - 27/05/2023 - Photo: Miwa iijima/Cor Vos © 2023

It will be hard for Roglič to win the Tour but 2023 still might be his best shot as Remco Evenepoel is most likely not doing it this year and Pogačar's form is questionable after his injury from his crash in Liege. Juan Ayuso and other U23 super talents are still developing and both Pogačar and Vingegaard still will be very likely in their prime for some time from 2024 onwards. No one will expect Roglič to win the Tour after the Giro as no one has done it since Marco Pantani in 1998, but without the pressure perhaps it is the best time to try.

  1. Is there a relegation battle update coming anytime soon? the link in the header on the main page was last updated in 2022?!

  2. Interesting hypothetical question: does Roglic still win if Kruijswijk doesn’t crash and, therefore, he doesn’t have Sepp Kuss?

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