Of the thousands of spectators who clambered up Monte Lussari's wicked slopes for the Giro d'Italia's penultimate stage time trial, pure luck would have it that the one Primož Roglič was nearest when he suffered that heart-in-mouth mechanical, and helped him with an expertly executed momentum-gaining push, just so happened to be the Slovenian's former ski jumping teammate.
"It was completely subconscious," Mitja Mežnar, who has competed at the Winter Olympics and World Cups during his skiing career and was formerly Roglič's roommate, told Val 202. "When I saw that he was on the ground and had a mechanical, I was shocked."
The red-shirted 'fan', sporting a Jumbo-Visma yellow casquette, sprinted down the mountain, joining the team's official helper in pushing Roglič back up to speed to not long after win the stage and, more importantly, the Giro by a mere 14 seconds.
"I reacted completely instinctively and tried to get him back in motion as soon as possible to continue his fight. The whole thing unfolded extremely quickly," Mežnar explained.
🗣️ “Oh no, no, no. It had to happen again didn’t it." 😱
— Eurosport (@eurosport) May 27, 2023
Roglič too addressed the bizarre, but incredibly fortunate coincidence: "He's a super good friend. He was my roommate in the past when I was a ski jumper. He was one of the four guys in the [Slovenian] team when we were junior world champs in 2007, in the same place in Tarvisio. It's incredible."
At that FIS Junior World Ski Championships that Roglič referenced, he finished fifth in the normal hill event, while Mežnar was fourth. Tarvisio, where the event was held, was also the start town of stage 20's time trial. You couldn't make it up.
"You couldn't script that better, even if you wanted to," breakaway king-turned-pundit Jens Voigt said of the incident. "It is absolutely mind-blowing to think of the chances. That would be like winning the lottery five times in a week. It's absolutely fantastic."
Fellow GCN commentator and pundit Robbie McEwen joked: "Knowing Primož's history and things that have gone wrong, I wonder if they were standing at 200m intervals on the mountain, going 'something will happen to Primož, we just know it!'"
Mežnar's ski jumping career highlight came at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver where he finished eighth in the team large hill and 29th in the individual event, while at the 2009 world championships he finished eighth in the individual normal hill and 47th in the individual large hill.
Since those years, Roglič's transition and growth to one of the sport's most successful Grand Tour riders of his generation has gone from strength to strength, this his first maglia rosa now sitting pretty alongside three Vuelta a España titles, an Olympic gold medal, Liège–Bastogne–Liège victory and just about every week-long stage race a professional cyclist could ever wish to win.
The success has not been linear, however, that devastating penultimate stage time trial loss of the 2021 Tour de France at La Planche des Belles Filles looked to be being repeated on Saturday, down to the shocked reaction of his tortured teammates watching on at the finish.
Somehow, while all about them were losing theirs, Roglič and his old winter sports teammate managed to keep their heads ice cool.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.