La Vuelta 2020 - Primoz Roglic's armoury making his red rivals go green with envy
A second stage win while in an unfamiliar green get-up saw Primoz Roglic claw some time back on Richard Carapaz in the battle for red. The Slovenian is purring along so nicely in this Vuelta, who cares if he looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?
Richard Carapaz and Primoz Roglic chase down Michael Woods and Hugh Carthy in stage 8 of La Vuelta 2020
Primoz Roglic may not look sartorially sound of late in the Vuelta, but that's not holding him back.
Ridiculed on social media this week for looking like a cross between a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and a Lego man, the Slovenian sensation shed his offending gilet to showcase his green jersey on Wednesday – a jersey he'll hope will be red again before too long.
Conceding the race lead on Sunday to Richard Carapaz, Roglic took over the green jersey that had previously been worn by both the Ecuadorian and the Irishman Dan Martin.
'What a final - the heavyweight punches' - Sean Kelly lauds Stage 8 finale
As we know all too well, the points classification in the Vuelta is about as conducive to sprinters as Spain is to vegetarians – making the green jersey, basically, something that's worn by the biggest challenger to the man currently in red. But the cooler weather in this unprecedented "Vuelta del Otoño" has had riders grab for extra layers to keep warm.
The problem here being Roglic's sleeveless Jumbo-Visma team issue Slovenian national champion's gilet clashes something rotten with the green tunic bestowed upon him for being the most consistent finisher in this year's race.
Coupled with his white shoes, the celeste blue of the Bianchi logo on his black bike, and the luminous glow emanating from his bar tape of a criminally different shade of green – and, well, it all adds up to a vomit-inducing mulch that seems to have got the goat of cycling's purists on social media.
Those humourless adherers to the now-outdated (and always rather snobbish) code of the Velominati have had a field day. Even Jonathan Vaughters – a man responsible for arguably the most horrendous jersey to grace pro cycling – has stuck his oar in, albeit in a clearly tongue-in-cheek fashion (not that anything about Roglic right now is remotely fashionable).
But it's clearly all water off a duck's back for the man under the spotlight, with Roglic returning to the start of Stage 8 on Wednesday to do his best Phonak circa-2006 impression.
They may say (at school, usually) that if you look the part, you play the part – but it's not as if such a sartorial crime has had any detrimental effects on Roglic's capacity to play his part. Quite the contrary. Once things warmed up during the 160km ride through the Rioja wine region of northern Spain, Roglic shed his gilet and the turtle came out of his shell.
Without the blue, white, red and yellow of the absent garment (not to mention those yellow arm warmers), Roglic actually looked pretty slick in green as he kept his powder dry and let teammate Sepp Kuss trail an early move by Hugh Carthy on the Alto de Moncalvillo.
Carthy, the laconic Prestonian who suddenly finds himself as leading EF out of the (Michael) Woods as a Plan B they hope will hit the heights of his Giro-winning countryman Tao Geoghegan Hart, was perhaps a bit over-eager to build on his Canadian teammate's victory 24 hours earlier – a crime for which his manager Vaughters could laugh off with his trademark wit.
But the man who was the butt of all the jokes earlier in the day soon came into his own after he shadowed Carapaz following an attack by Aleksandr Vlasov inside the final two kilometres of what proved to be a thrilling climax.
It was Roglic, after all the subtle Jumbo foreplay, who darted clear to close the gap on Vlasov under the kilometre-to-go banner. And when Carapaz, the race leader, then attacked, Roglic showed that even after the disappointments and lingering fatigue of a long Tour campaign, he still had the uphill kick in his locker to pull the trigger and despatch his rival and surge clear of his floppy GC contenders. And when he did, he had the good nature and self-awareness to zip clear on the drops, covering up the out-of-sync green bar tape.
Can he sustain this form? That's the big question. With a slight dip in the World Championships road race (where he finished sixth) Roglic has been peaking since early August. Carapaz, too, rode the Tour; but the first week was conditioning himself back from injury, the second in a support role, and only the third hunting stages. Their endurance levels may be at different stages of decline. But, right now, Roglic looks a million dollars regardless of what he's wearing.
On this showing, all this talk of Roglic looking like a joke in green won't matter because he'll soon be back in red. Although, I have to say, red doesn't half suit Carapaz's complexion and those dark blue Ineos Grenadier shorts…
Highlights: Roglic wins to claw back time atop Alto del Moncalvillo