Sassenage (dpa) – TV ratings are skyrocketing at home, and Slovenian newspapers come without superlatives. For the magazine “Vecer” it is a “dream duel” between yellow carrier Primoz Roglic and his young rival Tadej Pogacar.
“This is no longer a fairy tale or a dream, all of this is a reality. One of the greatest stories is happening in Slovenian sport right now,” wrote the biggest daily newspaper “Delo” after the next double success in the 107th Tour de France.
Small Slovenia, a country with only two million inhabitants and a love for football and winter sports, rules cycling. How is that possible? “The result of hard work,” said 21-year-old touring debut Pogacar. After his triumph in the Grand Colombier, he is the youngest rider in 86 years with two Tour stage victories in one year. In the general classification he is only 40 seconds behind Roglic. The rest, especially last year’s winner Egan Bernal, has already been left behind.
Doubts are also accompanied by the miraculous rise of the two Slovenian stars. Some traces of the blood doping affair surrounding Erfurt sports physician Mark S. are known to lead to Slovenia. Pogacar and Roglic have not been affected so far. Still, the reputation of old or current companions is not quite perfect. For example, Pogacar’s discoverer Andrej Hauptman was banned from his active career before the tour began in 2000 because his hematocrit reading was over 50 percent.
And against cycling manager Milan Erzen, the world association UCI has started an investigation into alleged connections with a doctor from Operation Aderlass. Erzen was head coach of the lower Adria Mobil team in 2013 when Roglic started his career. Associated doping questions echo off the former ski jumper, as do the few bouts of his competitors. ‘For my part, you can trust me. I have nothing to hide, ”said Roglic.
Roglic has been wearing the yellow jersey since the ninth stage. That should stay that way until Paris, if his fellow countryman doesn’t get in his way. “We are also rivals and friends. We come from the same country, but we both want to win on the bike,” Roglic says of the relationship. Sometimes they even train together, and a session can be “tough,” adds Pogacar.
Two friends, two fellow countrymen, two rivals – but also completely different. Roglic only started cycling at the age of 26, after ending his ski jumping career. A late starter, unlike Pogacar, who has been kicking passionately since he was nine. The boy from Komenda has always been ahead of his time. In his youth, he regularly outdid older rivals. And last year he won three stages in the Vuelta, something that no driver has achieved before him in a big tour at the age of 20. For Pogacar, the organizers of the California tour even had to redesign the awards ceremony. Since he was not yet 21, he was refused the champagne bottle.
And their driving style can hardly differ. Roglic and his super team Jumbo-Visma always want to have everything under control. He strictly follows a plan. He introduced himself to the team leaders at the end of 2015. He wants to win the tour in five years. The plan seems to be working. Pogacar only knows the motto “all or nothing”. Attack whenever possible. “What do I have to lose?” Says the youngster. Likewise, he stormed to third place overall with his solo victory in the penultimate Vuelta stage last year.
Pogacar was also the only driver on this year’s tour who – apart from bonus seconds – was able to take time from Roglic. In the eighth stage he surpassed Roglic and Co. for 40 seconds when he stormed the Col de Peyresourde in record time. The old record was held by convicted doping sinners Alexander Vinokurow and Iban Mayo from 2003.