UAE Team Emirates rider Tadej Pogacar wins Giro d'Italia as Merlier takes final stage

Slovenian rider victorious on his debut by biggest margin since 1965 in Italy's Grand Tour

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Slovenia's Tadej Pogacar blew away his rivals to win the Giro d'Italia on his debut in the race, winning by the biggest overall margin since 1965 after Sunday's final stage in Rome.

"I am speechless, it's hard to describe this moment, it's amazing," said the 25-year-old.

"A lot of nice memories for sure, in a while I will see which one was the best moment but I think in general it was a really beautiful Giro."

The UAE Team Emirates rider had been in the leader's pink jersey since winning Stage 2, the first of his six stage successes, and finished the ceremonial 125-kilometre Stage 21 safely in the bunch as Tim Merlier won the stage.

Merlier (Soudal-Quick-Step) outsprinted Italy's Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) as the Belgian won his third stage. Milan had made his way back to the front for the bunch sprint after crashing on the last lap around the Eternal City.

“It’s a really big win but for myself,” said Merlier. “The first part was easy and then the end full gas, so for me a race like this is a bit special but it’s a really nice victory.

"I have to say sorry to the guys because I couldn’t follow today. So we played a bit of catchup in the end. If I can take the cobbles positioned five or six, I can go from far on the cobbles. I go with my speed. It works. I take the win for the team.”

Milan, winner of three stages, wins the points classification, ahead of Australian Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) who finished third in the final stage.

Pogacar finished nine minutes and 56 seconds ahead of Colombia's Daniel Martinez (BORA-Hansgrohe), with last year's runner-up Geraint Thomas of Wales (Ineos Grenadiers) a further 28 seconds behind in third in the overall standings.

He adds the Giro title to his two Tour de France triumphs in 2020 and 2021, and did it in style, proving exactly why he had been the pre-race favourite as nobody came even close to challenging once Pogacar laid down an early marker on day two.

Last year's winner and fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic was absent from the race along with Remco Evenepoel and Jonas Vingegaard, but nothing can take away from Pogacar's domination in Italy, and he will now aim to clinch the Giro and Tour de France double.

Should he pull it off, he will join a list of legends in Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Stephen Roche, Miguel Indurain and Pantani.

Pogacar really took control of the Giro on Stage 7 by winning the individual time trial ahead of Filippo Ganna, stretching his lead to over two and a half minutes, and followed that by winning the next stage.

Ganna gained revenge in the next time trial but Pogacar still extended the gap to his rivals when finishing second, and by Stage 15 it was all but over when the Slovenian won his fourth stage and put an extra three minutes between himself and Thomas.

Pogacar won the weather-hit next stage and showed no mercy on the penultimate day when going solo to take his sixth stage to cement his grip on the maglia rosa, with an overall lead not seen in almost 60 years at the Giro.

The Slovenian also won the mountains classification and Pogacar could relax on the final day and enjoy his first ride around the streets of the Italian capital safe in the knowledge he was the Giro winner without a shadow of a doubt.

Thomas told Eurosport: “I’ve really enjoyed (the Giro). It’s been a good group of guys, it’s gone really fast, but it seems a lifetime ago that we started in Torino but it’s been great.

“I’m actually looking forward to (the Tour) now. It’s a big challenge but I’ll freshen up, stay off the beer, stay on it, go to altitude camp, go to the Tour and help the boys. We’ve got a great young team so I’m looking forward to it.”

Updated: May 26, 2024, 6:18 PM