For the past couple of months, Primož Roglič, Lora Klinc and their son, Lev, have been holed up in Tignes. They’ve become accustomed to being left to their own devices after this past year.
This particular period of isolation has fewer ramifications for the wider world, as the Roglič’s have squirrelled themselves away so dad can focus on how he can move from second place to first on the final podium of the Tour de France.
“For us it's not a big difference because we normally live like we’re in quarantine,” Klinc tells Cycling Weekly from the family’s current mountain base in Tignes, pacing around in the Alpine air.
“As you know, cycling is not a sport that allows you to do a lot of different other stuff, after being on the bike it's not really like we go here, go there...but here in Tignes is really nice. We like the calm, the nature, the Alps.”
Their previous time alone in isolation was amongst the mountains of Slovenia rather than the French Alps during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, which Lora used productively to write a book about her partner.
She’d always wanted to write a book, teenage years spent writing diary musings, but was yet to find a subject worthy to dedicate to print. Then Primož came along.
“My idea was to write a book about Primož but not like other autobiographies. Not 'he was born there...he achieved this and that…blah, blah'...but more how I see him.”
The book, Kilometer Zero, is the penned life of a cycling star written by a person with the closest access, his partner.
As cycling’s popularity gradually rose in Slovenia alongside the ascendancy of Primož, with Tadej Pogačar turning up just in time to kick it up into the stratosphere, growing to the status of becoming a national sport, Lora noticed a need to explain not just complicated concepts like Grand Tours to her compatriots, but also more trivial matters such as why riders would turn up on the start line wearing the various classification jerseys.
The decision was made to frame the book around telling the story of Primož’s first Grand Tour victory, the 2019 Vuelta a España, but then, quarantine hit. Suddenly, Primož, Lora and Lev were brought back together for a longer time than if dad was away at bike races. In writing the book, Klinc would sit with Primož and together they'd rewatch the 2019 Spanish Grand Tour, discussing various points as part of natural conversation, cycling’s answer to Gogglebox, developing the story from how the winner saw it.
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“There were actually some things he didn't know in terms of the rules,” Klinc reveals. “For example, I asked him what do you do when they put the level crossings down. He was like ‘I don't know huh? They always tell us what we have to do’.”
Watching the races over again together is a world away from when the pair are on either side of the television screen, Lorna says. Life within the orbit of professional cycling is, of course, beautiful, but also stressful for the loved ones of the riders.
“For me, I'm the happiest when the race is over huh,” Lora says with the exact same intonation as Primož also finishes his answers to questions with - apparently it’s a Slovenian thing.
“I'm really really nervous [when watching], I have good days and bad days. Sometimes I know that I don't have any influence and I'm calm with every situation that happens but other times I'm just freaking out and scared of every descent, every roundabout, and if there is a climb approaching or, you know, the crashes…
“I think every partner of a rider sees it differently than other people because you're emotionally involved. I'm really tired after a race, probably more tired than the boys, I think that's quite common. But I still want to be there and want to watch it. I wouldn't forgive myself if I wouldn't be here for example now in Tignes or at the Tour.”
There is the other side to it. Living life from bike race to bike race is a privileged one, even more so when you don’t have to cycle the kilometres in between.
“Of course, in the beginning you have questions, you have doubts. Is this really the way I'm going to live? In the end when you make peace with it, then it's really a beautiful life, it's a privilege for me to witness the world from the point that we are now to see all the beautiful places and all the emotions. And of course there are, how do you say, falls, down times.
“But you have to have quite a lot of motivation to enjoy it. When I see all the boys and how hard they work then it's quite natural for me, or for us, to put in the same effort. You try to follow your goals then afterwards you're happy or relieved for one week and then it starts over. Actually, that's the beauty in it.
“Sometimes it's quite hard. Especially now in the corona times. If you're isolated all the time, living abroad, almost alone. Every situation brings its own responsibilities and obligations, you have to be very attentive. It's a bit different I would say than having a normal life, just going to work from nine to five. But it's a privilege.”
It’s interesting, hearing what life is like inside the family of a pro without just having to talk watts. How the family as a unit is an integral part of the effort to deliver the cyclist across the line first.
“When you're done enjoying it then I think it makes no more sense [to continue racing]. Because to make such big sacrifices you have to have a really big motivation for it. You can't just say I will do it because of this and that.
“You have to feel it. We're doing it until we, or Primož, feels that [he doesn’t enjoy it anymore]. Then, after that, we will do something else.”
One of the more striking images of the 2020 Tour de France was the Roglič family coming together after the stage 20 time trial, the shock and emotion laid bare for all to see, with Roglič suffering the heartbreak of losing the Tour to compatriot and rising star Tadej Pogačar, just one day from Paris.
“I'm always more emotional in moments like this,” Klinc says. “I would say he's really good at accepting things the way they are. That's why he can move forward, can achieve the things that he has. He wins good but he also loses good, that's how I would put it.
“And phwoar yeah that was not the best day of our lives. It was really quite a shock. I didn't feel good, obviously, but when you have some time to think about it and you take two steps back. That's life. But it was not pleasant huh?
“Primož was probably the one comforting me in the end,” she laughs. “This is how it works huh?
“What we did [after] is we went directly from Paris and drove to Imola for the World Championships. And I think that was the best thing to do in that situation, just to keep moving. And then he immediately got the confirmation that he's still good.
“And here we are again, waiting for the stress and excitement to start. But this is a part of sports huh? Like in life, it's not always only ups.
“Great lecture,” Klinc finishes, having given more cogent life advice than you’re probably likely to find at a college or university, delivered with the (whisper it) trademark humour we are maybe starting to see more and more from Jumbo-Visma’s former man of steel before he softened at the curtain call of last year’s race.
Klinc will wait with Lev in Tignes until the Tour arrives on stage nine, watching on television like the rest of us, before resuming the beautiful life that they hope will result in a beautiful ending to this particular chapter.
Kilometer Zero is available in Slovenian and English from Primož Roglič's online shop as well as UK bookseller Pipin's Book.
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