Primož Roglič and Jumbo-Visma decided to give up the pink jersey lead on stage six in San Giovanni to ease the mounting pressure with more than two weeks left in the 2019 Giro d’Italia.
The Slovenian Giro favourite lost 7-14 minutes to Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates), the new race leader.
“I think the most important is who will have to jersey in Verona,” Roglič said.
The Giro only finished its sixth stage on Thursday, but ends in June with the 21st stage, a 17km time trial, outside the Verona Arena.
“We’re going day by day with the team and today the break was too strong,” Roglič added. “We considered that we would spend too much energy to chase them back. And it’s also OK because it’s really long race and also having the jersey cost quite something.”
With the loss today, Roglič slipped from first to 11th at 5-24 minutes behind Valerio Conti and slightly less than the others that formed the escape that went clear 48km into the 238km stage.
He also lost the daily responsibilities of the pink jersey: the mixed zone, automatic anti-doping tests and press conferences.
It appeared the perfect day for Dutch team Jumbo-Visma to say “ciao” to the pink jersey given the long day and the many more days remaining until the high mountain stages, starting with stage 13.
“Perfect day? I don’t know if there’s a prefect day for it,” sports director Addy Engels said. “But we knew it could be one of those days to make that decision.
“In the end, we had a stable situation with a strong break that was hard to chase, so we decided to let it go and keep it around five minutes, not to gamble and let it go to 10 minutes. To keep it within reach.”
With riders like Conti, Sam Oomen (Sunweb) and Andrey Amador (Movistar), Roglič may not see the jersey back on his shoulders until the race is in the high mountains of Italy’s north – if that.
“Yeah of course,” replied Roglič when asked if he was confident to get it back. “Not just me because there are still a lot of guys who want to take the jersey.”
Britain’s Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) sits right behind Roglič in the virtual GC of top favourites at 35 seconds.
“We have more than two weeks to do that [take the jersey back],” said Engels. “We don’t make a special plan to do that now, but we will see. The Giro is hard enough that everyone ends up where he should be.”
The Giro underlined its hardships for Jumbo-Visma on Thursday. Three off their men – including Roglič, Sepp Kuss and Paul Martens – fell in a mega crash only 34km into the race. Stars Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mikel Landa (Movistar) also came down. Roglič’s shorts were ripped wide open.
“It’s cycling and the guys crashed,” said Roglič. “I was there and couldn’t go anywhere. I hit on my big ass and luckily it’s just that! Normally everything should be OK.”
“It’s OK, he was already laughing when he was back at the car,” Engels said. “Luckily the pants were more torn than Primož himself! Of course it’s a crash, it doesn’t help, but he’s OK.”