In Tarvisio, at the apex where the borders of Austria, Slovenia and Italy cross, Mount Lussari; At its summit, after a climb that makes the best cyclists in the world look like sweaty Sundays, at 10 per hour, a sanctuary for three peoples, for three linguistic families, Slavic, Germanic, Romance; at its doors, a unique scenario for the victory of Primoz Roglic, a 33-year-old Slovenian, who beats Geraint Thomas by 14s the most equal Giro that many remember – the fourth in history: the tightest, that of 1948, which Fiorenzo Magni won from Ezio Cecchi by 11s – the most calculating for the personality of the fighters, to those who separate no more than 100 meters, the last slope to the church, endless, after traveling 3,230 kilometers in 20 days. And around him, hundreds of Slovenian flags wave, and shouts of joy are heard. Roglic, who lost a Tour in a similar time climb, starting as favorite with the yellow jersey, wins a Giro making suffer the same taste of defeat, metallic as blood, to Thomas, the Welshman calm, very calm, who comes out pink, and comes out favorite, before 18.6 kilometers, with 26s of advantage.
The Portuguese João Almeida, third in the time trial also, will accompany them on the podium in Rome, so far away, and a plane flight on Sunday morning, where the President of the Republic awaits them, after a last tourist stage and a sprint.
"In life, sometimes you lose, sometimes you win, but if you keep fighting after losing, victory comes," says Roglic, who found reasons to feel cursed again halfway up the climb, when he faced a concrete curve with a gutter in his radius pedaling with the cadence of an amateur mountain bike (bigger the pinion, 44 teeth, that the plate, 41, and the chain crossed), turns with such a grinder that it ends up pedaling in vacuum. The chain comes off the plate. Roglic descends quickly and puts her in her place. The mechanic who accompanies him on a motorcycle (there is no room for cars, so narrow is the ascent), with the spare bike on his shoulder, takes time to start pushing him. He finally does. "It's what I'm here for, to have a hope, to fight for it, whether I win later or not."
His Jumbo teammates, those who have given their watts for him, who watch him on TV from the finish line, shout in horror. By the last checkpoint, four kilometers from the end, he has passed with 16s of advantage over Thomas. The Giro, the days of rain, cold, covid, falls, stoppages, bad mood and sadness, and the immensity of the Three Peaks of Lavaredo, is played in a chain jump. In a handful of seconds. The final push of the mechanic, the help of an amateur, anger and fear, so much adrenaline at once, accelerate, however, Roglic, who ends up pedaling furiously. "It suited me deep down. It allowed me to rest for free for a few seconds because I was standing there. Yes, I rested," jokes Roglic. "But obviously I had enough to keep giving hard. He had legs."
The calm Welshman, master in the management of effort, so calm when it comes to changing his helmet and putting on a cold and well-ventilated road one instead of the suffocating time trial he carried in the flat 10 kilometers, and there he gave 8s to Roglic, does not find the spark of emotion that makes him go further. "If you had told me this [that I was going to finish second in the Giro] in February, even March, when I was in Catalonia, I probably would have taken a bite off your hand," says Thomas, 37, who had kept the maglia rosa would have been the oldest winner in history. "Now it's quite hard to swallow this, although I think when I take it in, I can be proud of it. But yes, I'm getting too old to put up with these things."
Finally, the breakdown is the sign of destiny, the push that compensates him as few of a bitter defeat. "Even before I started the Giro, I knew that the time trial would be decisive," says Roglic, who adds the Giro to the three Vueltas (2019 to 2021), Olympic gold in the Tokyo 2020 time trial and a Liège to the list of his best victories. "I also wanted to show everything I learned from the experience I had in a similar situation. And that happened. I succeeded today. And all the people, what a crowd [and at that moment, honking cars of Slovenian fans and flags that run through Tarvisio as if they had won the World Cup, make his words inaudible], all this support, make this day very, very, special, that I will remember for the rest of my life."
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