Tadej Pogacar: How the UAE Team Emirates rider blasted his way to Giro d'Italia glory

Slovenian superstar produces cycling masterclass to leave rivals in his wake

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Thinking back to the start line in Venaria Reale on Saturday, May 4, the rumblings and whispers amongst the peloton, echoed by the voices of the cycling world, were focused solely on one topic and one man: if not Tadej Pogacar, then who? If Pogacar, by how much?

The expectation on the shoulders of the greatest cyclist of our generation, and arguably ever, heading into the first Grand Tour of the season couldn’t have been greater. The Slovenian sensation arrived on the start line in imperious form, blowing his competitors away in the Volta Catalunya, Liege-Baston-Liege, and Strade Bianche. Would we see a further extension of his greatness in the mountains of Italy? You bet.

Stage 1 set the tone for the entire Giro D’Italia. Pogacar attacking in a way only he can, lighting up the peloton and leaving the chasing group scrambling. He was bravely followed by Jhonatan Narvaez and Maximilian Schachmann and ultimately beaten to the stage on the line by the more powerful Ecuadorean, but it was an early warning to the rest of the peloton and a sign of things to come.

The UAE Team Emirates talisman is adored by the world of cycling for his insatiable appetite for winning, so losing on the line in Stage 1 merely poked the bear and further increased his desire to remind everyone why he is the very best. The podium isn’t enough for him. He belongs on the top step, and this was his focus heading into Stage 2. Never pull a tiger’s tail. Finishing on the podium well and truly tugged his tail.

Stage 2 went how everyone expected – a hungry Pogacar asserting himself over the rest of the field and putting 0.27 seconds into his closest competitor, Dani Martinez. Pogacar’s dominance put a marker down that he wasn’t just here to win the Giro D’Italia, he was here to dominate in a manner never seen before in La Corsa Rosa history. The race then transitioned into the first section of flatter stages, with the sprinters coming to the fore and Jonathan Milan dominating the early battles to the line.

Stage 7 showcased another string to the bow of Pogacar’s unmatched cycling immortality. The first individual time-trial of the race in Foligno looked favourable for the Italian powerhouse Filippo Ganna, but in true Pogacar fashion, he tore up every cycling norm and produced one of the all-time time-trial performances.

He’s no stranger to time-trial glory, winning his first Tour de France title in memorable fashion – producing a mesmeric effort against fellow countryman Primoz Roglic to steal the Yellow Jersey and overall victory. This time in Italy, he put in a stunning ride, rocketing up the category 4 climb at the end of the 40.6km course from Foligno to Perugia to snatch the stage victory, ultimately strengthening his grip on the Maglia Rosa.

Stage 8 saw Pogacar go back-to-back, producing a mammoth effort after some incredible work by his team in controlling the peloton, dictating the pace, and ensuring the 14-man breakaway never gained an advantage that couldn’t be made up heading into the final climb. Pogacar’s victory meant he took a monstrous advantage over his rivals heading into the first rest day, and this was just the beginning.

The next stage that cemented Pogacar’s seat on cycling’s Mount Rushmore was the Queen Stage (Stage 15), where he produced one of the greatest individual rides ever seen in Grand Tour racing. The Slovenian superstar produced a dazzling attack with 14km to go and showed he truly is a class apart from his competitors.

One-by-one he rapidly picked off riders who had attacked from the bunch, finally passing Nairo Quintana who rode valiantly, before ascending up the steepest slopes of Livigno to secure a quite remarkable victory. The brutal manner of this triumph will live long in the memory, extending his seismic advantage in the General Classification and all but securing his first ever Maglia Rosa.

After a well-earned rest day, the race was thrown into chaos with some torrential weather giving the race organisers an enormous headache as to how to navigate the stage to ensure fans were treated to the spectacle they were promised whilst ensuring rider safety wasn’t compromised.

In true Pogacar style, he didn’t disappoint. In some horrendous conditions, he prevailed victorious atop of Santa Cristina Valgardena, securing his second back-to-back stage victory of the Giro to merely thrust the dagger deeper into the hearts of his GC rivals.

The final act of the Pogacar masterclass came on the penultimate stage – Stage 20, whereby he stuck true to his word of wanting to put on one final show for his Slovenian fans by lighting up the double passage on the Monte Grappa.

After some quite brilliant work by his selfless band of brothers who again emptied themselves to put the Maglia Rosa in a position to secure an incredible sixth stage victory, the Slovenian went solo to the top of the climb after he immediately distanced the other top GC contenders and bridged the gap from his closest rival, Giulio Pellizzari.

As the No 1 cyclist in the world rolled into the Eternal City of Rome, shoulder-to-shoulder with his teammates, there was an overwhelming feeling from those watching on that we’ve all just had the privilege of witnessing cycling mastery from the standout rider not only of this season, but certainly of our generation, and arguably in the history of the sport.

And next in his sights? The Tour de France…

Updated: May 27, 2024, 11:16 AM