Stat Attack: The history Primož Roglič must defy to win the Tour de France

From his change of teams to his advancing age, the facts and figures suggest the Slovenian faces a complicated task in July

Clock12:00, Wednesday 31st January 2024
Primož Roglič wearing the yellow jersey at the 2020 Tour de France

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Primož Roglič wearing the yellow jersey at the 2020 Tour de France

Primož Roglič wants to win the Tour de France. To do so, he will have to buck several trends and shake off the shackles of history.

Roglič, the Giro d'Italia champion and a three-time Vuelta a España winner, has identified the yellow jersey as the outstanding item on his career to-do list.

To try and achieve his goal, he engineered a shock transfer away from Visma-Lease A Bike, the only professional team he has known and the strongest Grand Tour set-up the sport has ever seen. At Bora-Hansgrohe, he'll have sole leadership, full backing and a clear run at the Tour.

But can he pull it off?

Given several factors relevant to Roglic’s specific situation, the stats and facts suggest that Roglič finally taking home the yellow jersey will be almost impossible.

New team syndrome

No rider can win the Tour de France on their own. They need a committed team behind them – not just riders, but also the support and care of a group of sporting directors, soigneurs, mechanics etc.

Riders who have been among the same staff for years have had the time to cultivate trust and understanding. Conversely, riders who rock up on a new team face a race against the clock to command that type of respect in time for the Tour.

Roglič will surely have some level of respect – after all, he’s won four Grand Tours – but humans are complicated and it can take time for personal relationships to form and become reliable. There's also the added hurdle of adjustments to new equipment, with the need to get used to new bikes, new kit, new nutrition products, and the like.

The last time a rider won the Tour in their first year on a team was Alberto Contador in 2007 when he made the winter switch from Liberty Seguros to Discovery Channel. In the last 50 years, only five other riders have done the same: Oscar Pereiro, Bjarne Riis, Greg LeMond (twice), Pedro Delgado and Joop Zoetemelk.

To finish first, first you need to finish

Roglič is also facing the reality that it will have been four years since the last time he finished the Tour de France. He crashed out of the last two editions he has ridden. The last time he made it to Paris was 2020 and what must still be the main motivation for the Slovenian to finally complete his unfinished business - losing the Tour in the final time trial at La Planche des Belles Filles to his compatriot Tadej Pogačar.

After the Second World War, Gino Bartali bridged a gap of 10 years by winning the Tour in 1948, having not previously completed it since before war broke out in 1938 (a race he also won). If we discount the riders who won it the first ever time they completed it, since Bartali only one rider has won the Tour, having not completed it for four years, and that rider comes with a big fat asterisk: Lance Armstrong.

Of the asterisk-less riders, only two of them in that time have won after a three-year gap: Greg LeMond from 1986 to 1989 and Luis Ocaña from 1970 to 1973.

Too short on race days?

If Roglič’s Tour preparation goes to plan, he will ride only three races beforehand: Paris-Nice, Tour of the Basque Country and the Critérium du Dauphiné. That is just 22 race days in total. Since the calendar settled down to roughly the way we know it now, after the Vuelta moved from Spring to September in 1995, the average race days before a rider wins the Tour de France is 30.

The only rider during that time who won the Tour with fewer race days in the legs than Roglič is planning was Lance Armstrong - again with gigantic asterisk included. (This is discounting Pogačar in 2020 who won after only 19 race days with the heavily Covid-affected race calendar).

Armstrong ‘won’ four of his Tours having raced just 21 days. On the other end of the spectrum, the most race days throughout those years was Vincenzo Nibali, who racked up a whopping 45 before he won the Tour in 2014 – that's more than double Roglič’s target.

Too long in the tooth?

There is also the simple matter of that which catches up with us all: age. Roglič will be pushing 35 this summer. Only one rider older than this has ever won the Tour de France and that was over 100 years ago: Firmin Lambot in 1922.

Roglič's three main rivals are set to be Jonas Vingegaard (27), Pogačar (25) and Remco Evenepoel (24), and two of them are now multiple Tour de France winners.

Only once before throughout the history of the race have two multiple former winners still in their 20s taken to the startline at the Tour. That was Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon in 1990, when the race was won by LeMond. Even then, both of them were very nearly 30.

But what if...

To win the Tour de France this year, Roglič will have the weight of all of this history against him as well as three of the most formidable opponents imaginable.

If he wins it – and given what we know now, it is a big big ‘if’ – by definition, it will have to be one of the greatest Tour de France victories of all time.

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