South Americans will almost certainly disagree, but this summer of cycling surely belongs to Slovenia. After Tadej Pogacar followed up his second successive Tour de France title with bronze in the Tokyo 2020 road race at the weekend, Primoz Roglic has given the country its first Olympic gold medal in cycling.
With Roglic finishing more than a minute ahead of his closest rival in the time trial, the only genuine racing was to decide who would occupy the two lower spots on the podium at Fuji International Speedway. In the end, just over four seconds separated the second- and fifth-placed riders.
The Dutchman Tom Dumoulin repeated his silver medal from the Rio Games, followed by the former time trial world champion, the Australian Rohan Dennis, two seconds behind in third. Italy’s Filippo Ganna, the reigning time trial world champion, faded over the final kilometres to finish fifth behind Switzerland’s Stefan Küng.
Dennis, who had skipped the weekend road race to focus on the time trial, said: “I’m quite proud of the bronze medal … look, I would have loved gold, but I wasn’t the best guy on the day. I’ve worked hard, everything has been going well and I just got beaten by better riders. I’ve still medalled at the Olympics – not many people get [to do] that.”
But it was Roglic who benefited most from a quieter runup to the Olympics, even if it had been the result of heavy falls that forced his exit in the early stages of the Tour de France.
The former ski jumper, who was among the last to leave the starting line, opened up a narrow lead by the first checkpoint, turning it into an unassailable one at the end of Fuji’s undulating 44.2-kilometre circuit.
“It’s crazy,” Roglic said after the race. “You know, you always hope the days you train for, in the end you get the best result. The last few races I did, they didn’t go the way I wanted. But I always believed. Every achievement is special. This one for me is super, super special.”
Tokyo 2020 marks the end of a frustrating, and at times physically agonising, summer for Geraint Thomas, who had crashed with his British teammate Tao Geoghegan Hart in Saturday’s road race.
Neither man appeared to gain any advantage from riding separately in the time trial. Thomas, who finished 12th, conceded it had been another tough day. “I tried to start at a pace that we thought would be there or thereabouts for a medal,” he said. “Then I heard I was 50 seconds down on Roglic, which wasn’t great for morale.
“You need someone to chase almost. I’ve got to be content with that, it’s been a super hard five weeks and it just seems to be one thing after another.”
While Roglic celebrated, a German cycling coach apologised after admitting he had used racist language while supporting a rider during the race. The sports director, Patrick Moster, was caught on camera using derogatory language when urging Nikias Arndt to try to catch the Eritrean rider Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier and Algeria’s Azzedine Lagab.
“I was in the feed zone and cheered on Nikias Arndt,” Moster, a 54-year-old former rider, said. “In the heat of the moment and with the overall burden that we have here at the moment, my choice of words was wrong. I am sorry, I’m so sorry, I can only sincerely apologise. I didn’t mean to discredit anyone.”
Moster reportedly attempted to visit the Algerian team in the paddock to apologise directly, but the team had already left.
“Team Germany represents Olympic values like respect, fair play and tolerance throughout the competitions and beyond,” the German Olympic Federation said in a statement, adding it would discuss the incident with Moster.