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16 May 2016

Roglic leaps into the unknown

Tuscany was the setting for what might be the closest precedent in Giro history to Primoz Roglic’s stage win yesterday. Thor Hushovd’s glittering palmares includes only one Giro d’Italia stage win, at Scarperia, north east of Florence in 2007. Hushovd’s father, you see, was not a cyclist: he specialised in another sport entirely. Like Primoz Roglic, he was a ski jumper. Fifth in the Junior World Ski Jumping Championships in 2007, and a team gold medallist there, Roglic took his last competitive jump on 16 January 2011 in the FIS Cup, finishing only sixteenth.

“I dreamt of being the best, but I had knee problems and injuries so, when I was 21 or 22, I bought myself a bike and just started.”

Primoz Roglic took his next leap into the unknown.

The classic cross-over sport for cyclists is speed skating. Canada’s Clara Hughes won Olympic medals in both sports, as did the USA’s Eric Heiden who, after his career as an athlete, studied medicine and in 2012 joined BMC Racing Team as team doctor. BMC had one of the big favourites for yesterday’s Chianti Classic individual time trial in Stefan Küng, but the 2015 world individual pursuit champion finished no better than seventh in a rain-affected stage – we can only speculate how deeply it was affected – 58 seconds off the time set by Roglic, who had never ridden a time trial longer than 10 km, yet beat a former world hour record holder in Matthias Brändle by ten seconds, a former under-23 world time trial champion in Anton Vorobyev by thirty seconds, and Fabian Cancellara – no introduction needed – by twenty-eight.

The former junior world time-trial champion Bob Jungels started the day in the Maglia Bianca fourteenth overall, 1’21” behind the Maglia Rosa, his team-mate Gianluca Brambilla. He rode a brilliant time trial, to finish 6th, 45” slower than Roglic but 1’20” faster than Brambilla, which left the Belgian team Etixx – Quick-Step, already the winners of three stages, with the top two riders in the general classification, not to mention the Maglia Rosa and the Maglia Bianca.

The other two jersey’s are both held by Lotto Soudal riders. The Giro that started in the Netherlands has become a magnificent battle of the Belges.