That Roglic so easily beat some of the sport’s best on Wednesday is even more remarkable considering he only began cycling in 2012. In comparison, Froome finished second overall in the Tour de France that year.
“Crazy. Incredible,” Roglic told reporters after his historic stage win, that gave his LottoNL-Jumbo team its first victory in this year’s race. “Right now, still I cannot really form all these feelings.”
Roglic began his athletic career as a ski jumper when he was 13, according to a profile published last year in Peloton magazine. He soared to become the world junior champion in 2007, but his career came to a temporary standstill at age 17 after a single jump went wrong and nearly cost him his life.
Roglic landed head first high on the slope, only coming to a stop after sliding more than 100 feet to the bottom of the hill where he was airlifted unconscious to a hospital. Roglic avoided breaking any bones, but suffered multiple hematomas, according to Peloton.
Amazingly, after Roglic recovered, he wasn’t deterred from ski jumping, but his time off appeared to affect his progression in the sport and his lack of big wins eventually led him to retire.
“I was dreaming that I would be the best in ski jumping, but that dream wasn’t coming through so when I realized that I am not the best at [age] 20-21, I wasn’t where I was dreaming to be, so that’s why I changed and tried [cycling],” Roglic told Cycling News last year after joining LottoNL-Jumbo. “I bought myself a bike and discovered that I am pretty good with it.”
Roglic wasn’t just “pretty good,” however; he was sublime. By 2014, while riding with Adria Mobil, he won his first professional race, a one-day event from Croatia to Slovenia. By 2016, he earned his way into some of the world’s top events outside of the Tour de France, including the Giro d’Italia, where he won the individual time trial that year.
With Roglic’s rapid ascent to the upper echelons of the sport, perhaps it’s no surprise that he won one of the toughest stages of the Tour de France on Wednesday. The stage involved several high-profile climbs and steep descents, which allowed Roglic to take advantage of his taste for danger. He went hard on the climbs to break away from the group midway through the race and kept his lead by reaching speeds of more than 50 mph on the descents — often with no guardrails in place to stop him from flying off a cliff if something went wrong.
Roglic credits his ski jumping background to giving him an advantage.
“With ski jumping … you have to do a lot of core stability, a lot of power training, a lot of flexibility, stretching, yoga, speed training, strength. … Obviously now I try to use everything,” he told decorated retired cyclist Greg LeMond for Eurosport earlier this month.
As far as weaknesses, Roglic said he’s not yet too comfortable riding in a peloton, which showed at the beginning of Wednesday’s stage when he briefly got caught in a crash. He quickly got himself situated back on his bike, however, and caught up to the breakaway group that he would later leave behind on his magnificent solo effort.
Roglic said, “You always want to be the best,” when LeMond asked him about future goals, noting that he initially just wanted to show he could win a stage in the Tour de France.
“That was my plan,” he told reporters after the race on Wednesday. “I somehow decided to go for it finally today. … It was so crazy.”
“Later I will know how big it is, all this,” he added.
If Roglic still has energy, he could pick up another stage victory, possibly on Saturday in the individual time trial, which he’s proven adept at before. Roglic is not, however, threatening to crack the top 10 of this year’s Tour de France general classification contenders. He sits in 30th place overall, more than an hour behind leader Froome, who is separated from his closest competition, Uran and Romain Bardet by just 27 seconds.