The former ski jumper in pursuit of Tour de France glory

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          Le Slovène de 30 ans n'a pas de parcours typique pour un cycliste de haut niveau, mais est rapidement devenu le dangerman du peloton.
        

From Planica to the Alps, Slovenia Primoz Roglic has always had an affinity for the mountains.

But hardly anyone would say an experience in ski jumping would lead to a successful career in road cycling.

Not even Roglic, one of the most dangerous men in the professional peloton of the UCI World Tour who started his sporting career in this way.

The Slovenian, who won his first Grand Tour victory Tour of Spain 2019, has long been called “the guy who was a ski jumper” by casual cycling enthusiasts and some in the media.

It’s a tag the 30-year-old is embracing, with his Instagram description being “Ex skijumper from Slovenia, now a professional cyclist”.

Now he is one of the favorites to win the Tour de France after a meteoric rise during his seven years in professional cycling.

But could it have worked any differently for the 30-year-old?

Primoz Roglic’s childhood and ski jumping years

Primoz Roglic was born on October 29, 1989 in Trbovlje, then a member of the the former Yugoslavia which would soon be split into its various constituent countries.

Unlike its neighbors, Slovenia escaped most of the Balkan conflict and the young Roglic was able to grow up in Kisovec, a former mining village, in relative peace.

An only child, his father – a former miner – worked in a local factory while his housewife mother raised him.

Cycling was not on the radar with Slovenia much better known for ski jumping, especially the world famous Planica hills.

So the youngster started ski jumping, a sport in which skinny frame and keep the weight pays dividends.

He told VeloNews magazine: “It was like flying. I liked this feeling. It is something that everyone dreams of doing. I wanted to be the best ski jumper in the world. ”

Those early years – Roglic participated in his first FIS competition in 2003 at only 13 years old – decent success.

He had two victories in the FIS Continental Cup, and also won money as a member of the Slovenian team at the 2006 Nordic World Junior Ski Championships in Kranj, before moving on to or the following year at Planica.

Roglic was airlifted to hospital unconscious after crashing in Planica weeks after the 2007 world junior championships, but escaped a serious injury and continued ski jumping until January 2011, when he last competed at age 21.

Change sport

Unable to challenge the best in sport, Roglic decided to call it quits.

He tried different sports to try to fill the void.

Cycling won out even though it was far from a natural change.

He said, “I felt it was time for a change. I loved cycling and I said to myself: “Why not? I will try to become professional. ”

“When I was a ski jumper, I was not allowed to ride a bike because you were cumbersome. ”

Roglic started cycling professionally in 2013 and quickly progressed through the lower ranks.

Since joining the Netherlands-based Jumbo-Visma team in 2016, the Slovenian has quickly developed a reputation as strong climber and time trial specialist.

He is also known in the team for drink alcohol-free beer to rehydrate after the races.

The 2016 Giro d’Italia – Roglic’s first Grand Tour – proved decisive in his rise to the top of his new sport.

He finished second in the first time trial and won the ninth stage, another time trial.

It was his first World Tour victory, and people were starting to notice the “guy who was ski jumper”.

After finishing 10th in the Rio 2016 Olympic Time Trial, his stock increased further.

Victory at Serre Chevalier on stage 17 of the 2017 Tour de France – which included a passage on the legendary Col du Galibier – also identified it as a threat in the mountains.

In doing so, Roglic became the first Slovenian to win a stage of the Tour.

Jovial but serious – and a real threat

The Slovenian brings to Jumbo-Visma both a joviality and a seriousness that his team appreciates.

“His development as a cyclist, [for] a former ski jumper, it’s phenomenal “, sports director of Jumbo-Visma Merijn Zeeman told VeloNews after Roglic claimed his second overall World Tour stage victory in the 2018 Tour of Romandie, just three weeks after its premiere at the Vuelta al País Vasco. “As a person, as a rider and as a leader of this team, he’s a fantastic person to work with. ”

Jumbo-Visma put their hopes on him for the big races and the Grand Tours, a move that paid off at last year’s Vuelta.

This triumph has happened just his fifth Grand Tour, further proof of his rapid rise to the top of road cycling.

He is now one of the favorites to break Team Ineos’ hold on the yellow jersey in Paris.

Ineos’ sporting director at the time, the late Nicolas Portal, said last year: “Of all the runners who could be a man of danger I see Roglic at the top. What he did at La Vuelta was impressive. ”

While the transition from ski jumping to cycling was not the easiest, there have been some. crossing zones.

He said, “We worked a lot on strength, balance, flexibility and stunts. It all helps me on the bike. ”

Roglic’s success has put cycling firmly on the map in Slovenia, and earned him the appointment Slovenian Sportsman of the Year in 2019, a distinction won four times by ski jumper Peter Prevc (2013-2016) with the ace of ice hockey Anze Kopitar (2012) a basketball star Luka Doncic (2018) among recent winners.

The yellow jersey – cycling’s most coveted prize – would almost certainly see him retaining that crown.

If he wins, he might have a non-alcoholic beer to celebrate!

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