Primoz Roglic: Where does Vuelta a Espana champion rank among the greats after third win?
Primoz Roglic moved up the all-time standings of most Grand Tour wins on Sunday after securing a third Vuelta title. But given they were consolation prizes after near-misses with the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, does he need a yellow jersey to be ranked among the greats? Nick Christian dives into the Slovenian’s case…
'Machine' Roglic will rival Pogacar at 2022 Tour de France - Wiggins
It was a question Orla Chennaoui asked, consciously prematurely, in The Breakaway: how will Roglic rank among the all time greats?
The 31-year-old has just won his third Vuelta in a row, becoming only the third rider, after Tony Rominger and Roberto Heras, to complete such a feat.
It’s also his third overall Grand Tour victory which, strictly speaking, puts him 14th on the list of overall winners. He is officially now level with Greg LeMond, Charly Gaul, Laurent Fignon, Louison Bobet, among others.
‘Oh my life!’ – Roglic wins Stage 21 time trial in style
The difference between him and all those named, as well as with Egan Bernal and Tadej Pogacar, is that all have Tours de France to their name as well.
Roglic is only 14th on the aforementioned list if you regard all three Grand Tours equally which, let’s be honest, nobody does.
It’s easy to imagine that Roglic might match and surpass Heras’ total of four Vuelta victories, particularly if his young compatriot decides not to turn up again. That would put him in a (very particular) class of his own.
But would even that make him one of the greats?
He would, we're sure, be the first to admit that his Vuelta victories have all come as consolation prizes. The first following failure at the 2019 Giro, the second after Pogacar’s stunning Planche des belles Filles overhaul at last year’s Tour de France. This one may have slightly made up for the disappointment of this year’s Tour, but the two races are not equivalents. Not even close.
WATCH - Final stages of astonishing finish that saw Pogacar eventually beat Roglic
Not to denigrate a race that is loved by so many, but one Tour de France is worth… I don’t know how many Vueltas. More than three, anyway.
Which is not to say that Roglic can’t still win one. Yes he’s 31, approximately the age most riders’ physiologies begin to plateau, but Roglic is not most riders. He came into the sport late, and progressed quickly. His first WorldTour season saw him come a whisker from the maglia rosa on his Grand Tour debut, and claim a victory in the very same race. Maybe age is just a number, and he really does have the physiology of a 25-year-old.
It’s hard to see him winning five, though, unlike his countryman, who already has two in the bag at the age of 22.
For Primoz, Pogacar is the great barrier to true sporting greatness. As long as the youngster - and we can keep calling him that for some time yet - from Komenda keeps turning up to - and not falling off at - the biggest race of them all, it’s hard to imagine Roglic claiming one of those tall glass cups.
A Giro d’Italia could be his, arguably more valuable than a Vuelta, but that would mean prioritising that over Le Tour, which hardly solves the problem. If it is a problem at all.
‘Unbelievable, crazy!’ – Roglic on winning third Vuelta
Bradley Wiggins’ response to the question Orla posed primarily focussed on the rider’s character: “I haven’t seen an athlete like this for a long time. Someone who is able to suffer extreme disappointments and then reset, refocus immediately.”
Our host agreed, adding that: “Primoz Roglic bounces back in a way that is truly exceptional.”
Dan Lloyd pointed to the way he has come to carry himself off the bike: “He was just so relaxed [at this year’s Vuelta], from start to finish. And he gave us some great quotes.”
And of course there is the way he rides. More Grand Tour stage wins than Chris Froome. You only have to watch to see how he seizes the moment, makes every second of a bike race count. We ought to do the same, evaluate him for the entertainment he brings us now, not for some anonymous future data point.
No, he will not match Eddy Merckx, and maybe not even Sylvere Maes, but there’s more than one way to be great.
- - -
You can watch La Vuelta live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk. Download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now. You can also watch the most comprehensive live & ad-free racing on GCN+. Go deeper and get interactive with live polls & quizzes, plus rider profiles, race updates, results & more – plus stream exclusive cycling documentaries.