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Surprise party


On Friday 3 March, Jumbo-Visma announced in a surprising press release that Primož Roglič would return to racing at this Tirreno-Adriatico 2023. Let’s be honest, the news could not have been better. The Slovenian, besides being a true champion with 65 career victories, is one of those characters who always honours the race, and always does so in his own pure and simple way that the fans like so much. There were many question marks as to when he would be back, since the long recovery to fix his shoulder had no real deadline: it was rumoured to be at the end of March at the Tour of Catalonia, but Primož decided to show up in Lido di Camaiore to lay the first brick of a path that will take him to the Giro d’Italia, his big goal of the season.

However, it is worth looking back over his long and troubled winter to fully understand what Roglič has been through. After dislocating his shoulder at the Paris-Nice 2021 and then again at the Tour de France 2022, leading to his withdrawal from the Grande Boucle, and then having to quit the Vuelta a España – where he had claimed the previous three editions – due to another crash, the Slovenian decided to put an end to his misery by undergoing surgery and putting his shoulder back where it was supposed to be. “My shoulder has dislocated 30 or 40 times, it was very painful, and I couldn’t take it anymore,” Roglič said in a recent interview. “I used to put it back in place by myself, but it didn’t make sense to keep suffering like that. They operated me, put a piece of bone in the spot where the shoulder was sticking out, so that it wouldn’t happen again. I couldn’t move my arm for awhile, it took several months to get back to normal. Luckily, I’m not a swimmer, otherwise I would have been in serious trouble”.

Roglič stayed away from his beloved bike for a good three months, dedicating himself to his family and his Foundation, which aims to offer a future in cycling to those most in need. He recharged his batteries and worked on his 2023. At the Corsa dei Due Mari, as mentioned, he showed up at the last minute, without any particular ambitions, but with the sole intention of putting kilometres on his legs.

However, the opening time trial in Lido di Camaiore told us that Primož’s shape was acceptable to say the least, not top of course, otherwise he would have easily ended up on the podium, but good enough to dream of something more than mere 7-day training. Today, in the first passages on the Tortoreto climb, he did not look brilliant, but then, with 5 km to go, the crash of Wout Van Aert forced him to suddenly dust off his killer instinct. By his own admission, the captain was supposed to be Wout, but when it comes to taking responsibility, Roglič certainly doesn’t shy away from it.

So, as he has often done over the years, he first waited for his rivals to let off steam and then delivered his acceleration in the last 200 metres, much like he has achieved many of his past victories. He wasn’t even supposed to be there, and instead he timed everything to perfection and put on a show. He is now a handful of seconds behind the Maglia Azzurra: no pressure, but you know, appetite comes with eating.

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