Physically and mentally fused, he says goodbye to cycling at the age of 31, Fabio Aru, an agile and lively Sardinian when he was even younger, at 25, beat Tom Dumoulin in a Tour. His sneakers are labeled with the jovial That’s all folks!This is it, folks, and the same comic typeface, that closed the Porky and Bugs Bunny cartoons.
Obradoiro Square is the end of the Aru path and of the Vuelta del 21, the third in a row that, like Tony Rominger 30 years ago, has been won by Primoz Roglic, the same age as Aru, and wiser with each passing day, and younger, and he earns his jubilee by running if not like a child almost like a cartoon character, sometimes wild, fast-paced, always fanciful, never calculating.
A veteran member of the so-called new cycling, the generation that was born around the turn of the century – Evenepoel, Egan, Van Aert, Pogacar, Van der Poel … – he is philosophically one step ahead. Fantasy becomes more and more important in his style than even victory. And despite this, the Olympic time trial champion is number one in the ranking world. Canonical cycling, in which Spain was anchored decades ago, is in retreat.
Roglic was not even calculating, nor did he regulate the forces with an atomic output, nor did he look at the clock or the references, he only rhythmically moved the loins of his immobile and flat back to win a very hard time trial, of an average 45 despite his kilometers of vertiginous descents, in which his playful mind, perhaps bored that the road was a tunnel between billboards, inclined him to take a detour to Santiago in a curve where there were no fences. Between Padrón, spicy and jumping the stones of the streets at the beginning, and Santiago, he only lifts her off the saddle to devour, with a sweet tooth, very hard slopes.
Run so fast, despite everything, despite hating the concept effort management, so in vogue, that except for the seven that follow in the classification, it would have doubled all of them. Enric Mas finished ninth, a great time trial for the Mallorcan climber, and took the undeserved punishment for his pride of being outmatched by the Slovenian launched into the sprint, split two minutes later, in the last curves on the Compostela stones, a painful photo. Roglic is awaited in the square by his Jumbo companions, who embrace him, a very cold Estrella de Galicia, or two, the music of bagpipes blown by bagpipers and bagpipers in rigorous black mourning, and a long session on the podium mounted on the square between inflatable town fair and beach bar terrace umbrellas next to the venerable stones of the cathedral. It was his fourth stage victory in a Vuelta that started the same, dressing in red after another time trial next to another 800-year-old cathedral, that of Burgos, a symptom, sign and sign of the dominance to come.
Reach the limits
Beside him, on the podium, perhaps infected with his joy, the usually more serious Enric Mas, second for the second time in his life, and has just turned 26, and the Australian Jack Haig, who, after bursting Superman’s head in Galicia, he finally led the most collective team, and inexhaustible source of energy, Bahrain that lost Mikel Landa and, as in the Giro, won Damiano Caruso, winner in Velefique, and the best youngster Gino Mäder’s white jersey, the cyclist of the century, indifferent to the past, boy of the present who when he won a tough stage in the past Giro declared, to the amazement of the stampSacrilege! He was sorry, he had no idea who Gino Bartali was, whose patronymic his parents must have given him for his love of cycling, surely. And when the film is finished it does not say this is all friends: it is one more step on your way to perfection.
“I did not win the 2020 Tour [aquel que le birló su compatriota Tadej Pogacar en la última contrarreloj] because I was over calculating ”, said in January Roglic, who weeks after that Tour won the Liege and his second Vuelta. “Not winning didn’t frustrate me at all. For me, the best thing in life is preparation, the constant search to improve, to reach my limits. The path is what I like, not the goal ”.
The Vuelta del 21 has been his way, of course. It has crossed it, its six great rivers and its valleys and mountains, from the Duero to the Miño and between the Ebro, the Tagus, the Guadalquivir and the Guadiana, and its tributaries, as the Renaissance gardens are crossed, a perfect square, of right angles that between its lines, inside, is a labyrinth that he travels following an endless thread, and accelerates or slows according to his mood, according to his whim, without depriving himself of the pleasure of pedaling freely, sometimes stronger than his desire for victory, as Mats Wilander speaks when he speaks of Carlos Alcaraz.
He throws himself and falls towards Rincón de la Victoria, when his team, intelligently, leaves the load of red to the Belgians of the Norwegian Odd Eiking, marks a step by two with Enric Mas in Valdepeñas de Jaén, he goes away, unnecessarily always, with Egan Bernal, with him and Pogacar the great trilogy of dominators of the great Vueltas, towards Lagos, and thus wins, with style, a Vuelta that could have simply won with the two time trials. And so he wins with 4m 42s over the second, the biggest difference since 1997 (more than five minutes from Zülle to Escartín). And the second, Mas, says: “I’m going to improve!”
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