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Primož Roglič gears up for decisive – and monstrous – Giro d’Italia mountain time trial by using gravel groupset… and specialist bike change mechanic

The Slovenian is hoping his experimental setup will help him usurp pink jersey Geraint Thomas, and avenge his dramatic defeat at the 2020 Tour de France

Primož Roglič looks to be pulling out all the stops as he attempts to claim the first Giro d’Italia title of his career on today’s decisive – and brutal – mountain time trial, opting for an experimental gravel-esque setup which the Jumbo-Visma star hopes will help him avenge his dramatic defeat in similar circumstances at the 2020 Tour de France.

After yesterday’s fairly cagey, nip and tuck battle on the legendary Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Roglič currently sits in second overall at this year’s Giro, just 26 seconds behind the Ineos Grenadiers’ Geraint Thomas, ahead of today’s penultimate stage, a savage 18.6km time trial to Monte Lussari.

The third and final solo effort of the 2023 Corsa Rosa, today’s time trial begins with a 10km-plus flat and rolling effort, before (most of) the riders swap their TT bikes for their climbing machines to take on Monte Lussari – a narrow, twisting, and horrendously steep brute, boasting an average gradient of 12.1 percent over its 7.3 kilometres, with multiple sections of up to 22 percent.

Faced with such a difficult and complicated time trial, and with the Giro hanging in the balance, Roglič and Jumbo-Visma appear to have been inspired by the off-road and gravel scene, choosing a Cervélo R5 fitted with a single chainring up front and a dinnerplate cassette at the back, as they attempt to carry out the same last-ditch raid on the leader’s jersey inflicted upon them by a rampant Tadej Pogačar during that Tour de France time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles.

Primož Roglič and pink jersey Geraint Thomas go head to head on Tre Cime di Lavaredo at the 2023 Giro d’Italia (Zac Williams/

Primož Roglič and pink jersey Geraint Thomas go head to head on Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Zac Williams/

While most pundits speculated that the 33-year-old Slovenian would keep his new setup under wraps until today’s stage, Roglič gave all of us a sneak peak of his modified bike when he switched to it in Cortina d’Ampezzo, with just over twenty kilometres to go in yesterday’s queen stage of the Giro and with the Passo Tre Croci and the super steep slopes of the Tre Cime left to ride.

Judging by yesterday’s finale – which saw Roglič surge past Thomas at the death to chip three seconds off the Welshman’s lead – the Jumbo-Visma rider’s Cervélo R5’s rear cassette has been swapped out for SRAM’s XPLR XG-1271, part of a gravel and off-road oriented subdivision of the brand’s top-tier Red groupset, which offers 10-44t gearing at the back.

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The gravel cassette is 1x compatible only, forcing Roglič to opt for a single chainring up front, leaving him with the option of anywhere between 38t and 46t. While it’s not yet been confirmed what size of front ring the Slovenian has opted for, most onlookers have concluded that it should be around 44t.

The lower gearing afforded by SRAM’s XPLR XG-1271 groupset will certainly suit Roglič’s typical high-cadence, all-action pedalling style, especially on the monstrously steep slopes of Monte Lussari, while running a larger cassette will allow him to achieve a better, more efficient chainline and the single chainring up front will have some aerodynamic benefits.

Yesterday’s first airing of the groupset on Tre Cime appears, as many have speculated, to have been a test run for today’s decisive time trial, with the Slovenian spotted riding the same setup on a recon of Monte Lussari this morning.

Jumbo-Visma, meanwhile, appear to have left no stone unturned in their quest for Giro glory, with GCN’s Daniel Lloyd revealing during commentary today that the Dutch team have flown in a mechanic who specialises in bike changes for the TT.

With almost all of the GC contenders expected to switch from a standard time trial setup to their climbing bikes in the designated ‘bike change’ zone at the foot of Monte Lussari, those precious seconds could prove crucial in determining the outcome of this year’s extremely tight Giro. The mechanic in question, Lloyd noted, was also on hand for Roglič’s planned pre-Tre Cime bike swap during yesterday’s stage.

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Rumours that the main contenders will even change their helmets, along with their bikes, appear to be unfounded, at least judging by the Jumbo-Visma leader’s morning ride – complete with standard TT helmet – on Monte Lussari.

However, after the Ineos Grenadiers’ Salvatore Puccio made a helmet change during his effort, could we see Geraint Thomas swapping his TT lid for a more breathable road model just before today’s final climb?

While the tension builds towards this afternoon’s fight for the maglia rosa, Mark Cavendish – riding the penultimate Giro stage of his career – enjoyed a much more relaxed climb to the finish as he soaked in the atmosphere before his attention inevitably turns to one last shot at glory at the Italian grand tour during tomorrow’s sprint stage in Rome:

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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