Primož Roglič says that he has been surprised by the strength he has shown at the Tour of the Basque Country, just weeks after twice crashing hard.
Despite conceding four seconds of his lead in the northern Spanish race to his fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogačar, on the punishingly steep final kilometres of stage three Roglič was clearly in better condition than many of his other rivals.
Although Pogačar ultimately beat Roglič in the two-up downhill sprint, the Jumbo-Visma man maintains a 20 second lead going into the remaining three stages.
It is a healthy position for Roglič to be in considering that just a few weeks prior he twice crashed on the final stage of the Paris-Nice, losing the leader’s jersey and finishing 15th.
“That climb was hard,” he said. “In the end I am actually happy with the way it went because three weeks ago I crashed two times.
“I haven’t had the best preparation in the last weeks but I am happy with my form.
“I have to be realistic and be really happy with the way it is going. We have to go day by day and go from that.
“I am happy with the legs and happy with how it went today.”
In an explosive finale to the third stage with a number of attacks, Roglič and Pogačar emerged as the strongest men a number of times, with their fellow rivals Alejandro Valverde, Adam Yates and Mikel Landa trailing five seconds behind them.
“I didn’t really study the climb. I just saw the profile in the morning. It was a nice, hard climb,” Roglič reflected.
“I didn’t know the climb and I went with 500m to go. I stopped one more time, they came back a little but from behind, and then Tadej opened up a little bit in the end when it went down. He definitely deserved the win.”
Stage four and stage six of the Basque race offer opportunities for Pogačar to try and take the leader’s jersey off Roglič, a prospect not lost on the 31-year-old.
“It’s the Basque Country – there’s always attacks,” he laughed. “I don’t expect a quiet day.
“I expect tough racing and I expect everything will explode over the last climbs. You have to be ready for everything. They will definitely be hard days.”