Does it bore him, winning all these bicycle races? After four stage wins in his last five race days, across two different major one-week races, the victorious Primož Roglič finale is now rote. Wait patiently until the line is in sight, begin the sprint, have a little look around. If anybody is still nearby, sprint a bit faster. Cross the line (first place), look slightly bemused, hands firmly wrapped around the bars except to hit stop on the Garmin. Must hit stop on the Garmin.
Roglič doesn’t celebrate at finish lines anymore. Three of the last four he hasn’t. He does celebrate well after finish lines. He ski jumps onto podiums, hams it up with the Tirreno trident, drinks three different bottles of Prosecco for ceremony after ceremony, all with a huge smile on his face. He is capable of joy. But he shows it in moments that are more calculated. Stage-managed, even.
The finish line is visceral. Few plan what they’ll do when they hit it first; fewer still actually remember what they planned to do. For every Juan Antonia Flecha smooth bow-and-arrow, there’s a wild-waving Toms Skujiņš at the Tour of California. It is a reaction, pure, found in a brief moment between the focus of racing and the manicured post-race question-and-answer sessions, the only time when a winner shows what it feels like to win, in all its unscripted glory.
Hit the Garmin button.
What’s going through his mind in those few seconds? Is it relief? Perhaps a sense of accomplishment. Another step toward the larger goal. Clearly not yet any overwhelming joy. On Monday, he had his finger on that computer before Remco Evenepoel, the world champion he had just casually beaten, had even finished whacking his bars in frustration. Roglič clicked the lap button, marking within half a second the exact end of his effort. Does he know his coach could trim to this point quite easily anyway? What propels this action, the purposeful end of a digital ride, into a place superior in importance to the celebration of a victory 150 other riders behind him would shout to the moon?
The obvious answer is he’s won so much, and, on the right finish, seems to win so easily, that sticking hands up morphs from celebration to gloating. But this is a man who lost the Tour de France on its penultimate day; who may now never win his Tour; who understands losing better than almost any other rider in the modern peloton, because the best way to understand losing is to narrow the proximity to winning down to almost nothing.
A friend pointed out that Laurent Fignon probably wouldn’t celebrate winning the fifth stage of Paris-Nice, either. He falls into a category of riders heartbroken by the Tour de France, for whom Paris-Nice is a deeply inadaquate substitute. Is that Roglič, too?
I asked our in-house Roglič Whisperer, Kate Wagner, writer of the definitive Roglič profile. Why doesn’t he celebrate? She doesn’t know. She says he’s funny; I actually do believe that. There’s a Nick Offerman (of Ron Swanson fame) type in there, a man who believes in making things with his hands and can start a fire without matches; who delivers his one-liners without a single twitch of face or voice, so deadpan that wondering whether he’s joking becomes the joke itself.
“This is day one,” he said after winning the first stage of Catalunya. Deadpan. “There are six super hard days to come,” he pointed out, straight-faced. “We’ll see how we go day by day.”
Surely, he’s in on it all?