Tadej Pogacar retains Giro d'Italia pink jersey as Tim Merlier sprints to Stage 3 victory

UAE Team Emirates rider leads general classification by 46 seconds over Geraint Thomas

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Tadej Pogacar threatened to win a second stage in a row at the Giro d'Italia before having to settle for keeping hold of the leader's pink jersey on Monday.

The UAE Team Emirates rider had sent out an ominous warning to his rivals after a scintillating victory 24 hours earlier to win his first ever Giro stage and take over as overall race leader.

And Pogacar powered away with two kilometres of Monday's Stage 3 remaining – following a move first started by EF Education's Mikkel Honore – leaving key rival Geraint Thomas of Ineos Grenadiers no choice but to follow the only man ahead of him in the general classification.

Despite opening up a sizeable gap they were caught a little over 200 metres from the line as Soudal-QuickStep's Merlier came through to pip Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) and Biniam Girmay (Intermarche), but it was another show of strength from Pogacar – albeit the sort of effort he might pay for down the line.

“Little bit complicated but not too much. We can break it down in three sections: first two hours were really easy and nothing happened, then one hour was just full gas from each corner, downhill, little climb was full,” said two-time Tour de France winner Pogacar.

“It was a little bit of chaos then everything came back together and it was a little bit stressful, not too much craziness but you could feel the tension. Then in the final it was stretching the legs.”

The Slovenian also insisted he was not the cause of the early break. “I did not attack, I followed the wheel,” he said.

“It was a good situation, me, Mikkel Honore and Thomas, G. We tried to keep on going but I never believed we could make it to the finish. G tried to pull as well in the end which surprised me so respect. In the end, I tried but 400 metres to the finish is still a long way to go, way too long.

“I had good legs and this kind of terrain is good and when it's a bit like a game like back in the day with your friends when you attack each other on the flat and small climbs, this suits me good.”

Welsh rider Thomas was also keen to point out the frantic finale was not his idea and he is now 46 seconds behind Pogacar in the overall standings.

“That wasn't the plan, we just wanted to stay out of trouble.” Thomas told reporters. “I saw Honore go and then Pogacar and I thought, 'I might as well go' but jeepers, that was solid. He's kicking my head in.

“I was just trying to hold his wheel, trying to give him a turn but, phwoar, it was solid. I looked back and was surprised to see such a big gap but I knew they were going to come back, especially with how I was feeling.

“It's been a good start, I'm feeling all right and hopefully it will continue to build.”

Meanwhile, Merlier secured his second Giro stage win and eighth of the season at the end of the 166km ride from Novara to Fossano, nudging ahead of Milan and Girmay before the line.

“It was the hardest victory so far,” said the Belgian. “It was a really hard final, we caught them back but in the last kilometre I never found the slipstream any more so I was always in the wind and I saw 300 metres and was like 'you need to go'.

“I saw Milan was starting his sprint on the left side and I knew I was going to be first or second and I'm happy I won this one.”

Tuesday's Stage 4 is a 190-km slog from Acqui Terme to the seaside resort of Andora at the foot of the Capo Mele.

Stage 3 result

1) Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quick-Step) 3 hrs 54 mins 35 secs

2) Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) same time

3) Biniam Girmay (Intermarche)

4) Jenthe Biermans (Arkea)

5) Tobias Andresen (Team dsm-firmenich-PostNL)

General classification

1) Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 11 hrs 03 mins 02 secs

2) Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) +46

3) Daniel Martinez (Bora-hansgrohe) +47secs\

4) Einer Rubio (Movistar) +56secs

5) Cian Uijtdebroeks (Team Visma) same time

Updated: May 06, 2024, 5:57 PM