“We have big news to announce today,” Bora-Hansgrohe owner and team boss Ralph Denk begins on a hastily arranged Zoom meeting. But on the call there has already been a giveaway of what’s coming: an interested party listening in with their camera off, their display name “Primož Roglič Shop”.
“We can confirm Primoz Roglic will join our project for the next years,” Denk continues. “After the departure of Peter Sagan the next milestone is one of the best riders in the world. He won nearly every race of his season in 2023. I’m also very proud, Primož took the decision to sign with us, it’s a big boost for our whole team, for the riders, for the staff. With all the meetings I had with him, he inspired me on different things. I’m super happy to tell you this news.”
Denk first met Roglič eight years ago in a beer garden in Salzburg, Austria, where he offered the rider a contract but was pipped by Jumbo-Visma. Yesterday, just as the new contract was being signed, he found that original offer in his office.
“It’s bigger and I can tell you if you make a zero again to the number it’s not enough,” Denk joked of the new deal that’s been agreed.
The 49-year-old first heard the news of the possible takeover between Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step during the last week of the Vuelta. After that, he listened very carefully to every interview Primož Roglič gave, looking for any “come and get me” sign the Slovenian was putting out into the universe.
“I found out he wasn’t really happy anymore because it’s understandable,” Denk explained. “Jumbo-Visma are looking forward with the leadership of Jonas Vingegaard. He’s younger, a two-time Tour de France champion. I don’t think Primož was too happy with how things were in the Vuelta. I asked him, he was open to talk. From the Vuelta things went quite quickly and we were then able to achieve yesterday the final signature of him.”
Despite the rumours, the team boss confirmed Red Bull weren’t putting up any extra money than they already invest in the “project partnership” between the two organisations that includes a scouting project and an athlete performance centre. Instead, a series of budget surpluses have led to a war chest being built up, and the German team were patient enough to wait for the right rider to come along who they could spend their money on.
“For sure I can confirm the deal with Primož is not funded by Red Bull but by us. Our economic balance has been quite positive in the last years and we had some money in the bank,” a big grin appears on Denk’s face. “That money we used for this deal.”
“We’ve paid this with our money,” he continues. “What we put aside in the last years [was for] when there is this kind of moment to sign a really big rider. Budget-wise I think we are still not on the same level as maybe Ineos and UAE, I don’t know what’s happening at Jumbo-Visma.”
Roglič’s contract is for more than one year, but Denk refused to give the exact length of the deal, citing a confidentiality clause. As for his coach Marc Lamberts, who is rumoured to be coming over from Jumbo-Visma to join Roglič at Bora-Hansgrohe, Denk says that nothing has been decided although Lamberts does have an expiring contract at the end of this year.
“To win the Tour is a dream for me personally and now was the chance to take one of the biggest contenders,” Denk added of the motivation behind the deal. “We are realistic as well, he’s not the only one, we need luck, good performance from the team and outstanding performance from Roglič. To go to a real contender, hopefully it will give us all an extra push.”
Bora-Hansgrohe have beaten out competition from other teams for Roglič’s signature, most notably the Ineos Grenadiers. Denk didn’t believe the deal would be done until the contract was signed, but he thinks Roglič’s decision was about more than money.
“I realised [the deal was done] when the signature is there and that’s [happened in] the last days. Otherwise it’s not confirmed, I’m a businessman. A shake in the modern world is not enough anymore. I think our chance was quite good, because we already had a chance eight years ago,” Denk explained. “We always had small chats during the races. We are also not so far away from Slovenia and the south of Germany where we are based is only three hours away. All the small parts give to the bigger picture, I think this is how he decided to sign with us.”
The discussion then moves on to how the 2024 Grand Tour calendar will be divvied up amongst a roster also including Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley, Aleksandr Vlasov and Cian Uijtdebroeks. Decisions will be made after the parcours are released, Denk says, but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Roglič will be heading to the Tour. For Roglič’s new teammates, the former GC leaders in the German squad, Denk says they are mostly happy with the arrival of a rider who will elevate the whole organisation to new heights. Especially, Uijtdebroeks, who now has the chance to learn from one of the best.
“Thanks for you guys,” Denk adds after the media thanks him for his time. “To bring the news in the newspapers, that is also helpful to us.”
The candid video call draws to a close, Denk and his media manager look chuffed with the coup they’ve managed to pull off. A coup they’ve clearly been planning for some time, to snag a top GC talent from under the noses of the true super teams.
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