Pogacar on brink of Giro triumph after crushing penultimate stage win

cycling25 May 2024 16:01| ยฉ AFP
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Tadej Pogacar ยฉ Getty Images

Tadej Pogacar ensured he will win the Giro d'Italia in a style reminiscent of cycling icon Eddy Merckx, blowing away the competition in Saturday's mountainous penultimate stage.

Riding a bright pink bike to match the leader's jersey he has held since the second stage, Pogacar surged away on the punishing Monte Grappa climb to claim his sixth win in his debut Giro, matching the tally by Merckx, another non-sprinter, in 1973.

The UAE rider holds a nine-minute 56 second lead over Daniel Martinez and will be crowned champion at the end of Sunday's procession around Rome unless an unprecedented disaster strikes in the Italian capital.

"We did a perfect job as a team today," said Pogacar. "I'm so happy that I got a big enough gap on the top that I didn't need to go full gas on the downhill."

"I cannot describe how I was feeling with all the fans on the climb."

The way Pogacar has pulverised the competition suggests he can become the first man since the late Marco Pantani to achieve the elusive Giro-Tour de France double.

Only seven riders have won cycling's two biggest three-week Grand Tours in the same year, with tragic Pantani doing it in 1998, the year Pogacar was born.

"We wanted the pink jersey from stage two," added Pogacar. "It just goes to show today is another test before the summer (and the Tour) to see how it is."

"I wanted to finish Giro with a good mentality, in good shape, and I think I achieved that."


Pogacar, already a two-time Tour de France winner, finished Saturday's stage two minutes and seven seconds ahead of Martinez, Antonio Tiberi, Einar Rubio, Pellizzari, Geraint Thomas and Ben O'Connor.

Saturday's win was his 12th of a sensational season which has also included victories in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Strade Bianche one-day classics.

"He is exceptional. I was aiming for the stage win today but there was nothing to be done," said Martinez.

Pogacar made his move with 36 kilometres remaining and quickly breezed past young gun Giulio Pellizzari who had to watch Pogacar surge off into the distance for the second time this week.

Pogacar gave Pellizzari his overall leader's pink jersey as the pair embraced after the 16th stage on Tuesday, when Pogacar overtook the 20-year-old in the final kilometre.

Italian Pellizzari went it alone again on Saturday, passing the early breakaway just before the summit of the first of two brutal climbs of Monte Grappa.

But he could not hold off Pogacar who was expertly guided up the second climb by his UAE team-mates as the those trailing in the general classification again fell away in the face of his assault.

By the time Pogacar crested Monte Grappa for the second time he had stretched his lead over Pellizzari to one minute and 35 seconds.

His dominance was such that he even had the time and composure to hand a young fan his water bottle and give the thumbs up to the adoring crowds that lined the streets of Bassano del Grappa as he cruised to yet another win.