Last year, amid great disruption due to the widespread coronavirus, the minds of the athletes in the cycling world were still set firmly on competition, as you might expect from the top endurance athletes on the planet. With the ecstatic high of a victory, also comes the crushing low of a defeat. The age-old adage rings true once again – there can only be one winner.
At the end of last year’s Tour de France, Primoz Roglic figured he could be that winner. He had only to win the final time trial and his GC victory was assured. A relatively simple prospect, considering all the miles and miles that had come before. Having led for a significant proportion of the race, he’d put in one final blast and he’d be there. The job would be done.
It wasn’t to be. The young Slovenian Tadej Pogacar smashed the time trial by an extra two minutes and rode off into the sunset with the overall victory, leaving Roglic, the Jumbo-Visma team leader in the least coveted of all sporting positions – second place. There’s an immutable dichotomy present when someone aiming so high comes up just short – on the one hand, you came second. You didn’t win and that’s gutting. You were so close but just not quite there. On the other hand, you came second. Second, out of a competition among the greatest cyclists in the entire world and, with the exponential advancements in technology and nutrition, possibly the greatest cyclists ever.
This leaves one in a strange place when met with such a position. You didn’t achieve your goal, but you’re sill one of the greatest alive. An inspiring thought paired with an unfortunate reality. Roglic is taking it in stride, however. While many athletes have one goal in mind – ultimate victory – Roglic takes a more incremental approach to improvement. From Cycling Weekly: “Defeat was brutal, devastating. But more for the people around me than for me. I’m someone who likes to keep moving forward, I don’t get hung up on a result… It’s actually very harmful to have only victory as a goal. If you are second, you are finished, you no longer find the strength to start all over again. It prevents you from enjoying the preparation. Me, I'll be super happy if next season I can improve by 0.5 percent.”
This represents a maturity characteristic of a team leader. While Roglic himself is quiet and was, early in his team membership, thought of as a little aloof and self-interested, due to his shyness, his progression into the leadership position seems well rewarded with the man’s character and doggedness serving the whole team well. His longsightedness allows him to take defeat well – like a champion, if you will. Jumbo-Visma will continue to go from strength to strength under his leadership and I’m sure we can all look forward to great things in the coming season, either through victory or defeat.