Pogacar in a class of his own ahead of Giro debut

cycling02 May 2024 16:37| © Reuters
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Tadej Pogacar © Gallo Images

Tadej Pogacar is such a huge favourite for this year's Giro d'Italia which begins in Turin on Saturday that the real battle looks like being for the runners-up spot.

The 25-year-old Slovenian, making his Giro debut, has been imperious this season, racking up seven wins in 10 days of racing including the Strade Bianche and Liege-Bastogne-Liege which he won with audacious long-range solos.

"He's doing something that's not normal and he can win every race he enters," retired Spanish great Alberto Contador said when looking ahead to the three-week battle around Italy.

"For me he is the best cyclist in the world. It's true he could have a crash or a mechanical problem but he goes well in the short climbs, long climbs, he flies in time trials, he has everything."

While the UAE Team Emirates rider has never ridden the Giro, there is no doubting his ability to soak up the punishment of a three-week slog, having twice won the Tour de France.

He will also contest the Tour de France later this year and some think if he won both he might be tempted to go for an unprecedented treble and take on the Vuelta a Espana too.

For now, though, his thoughts are on Saturday's 140km stage from Venaria Reale just outside Turin and ending in the city after a hilly route with three categorised climbs – a profile that gives him the chance to slip straight into the maglia rosa.

"I'm ready to embrace all the twists and turns that Grand Tour racing brings," Pogacar said of the challenges ahead.

"The route itself is one that should suit me and the team, but this is World Tour Cycling, and anything can happen. We'll be taking it day by day, stage by stage, ensuring we give ourselves the very best chance of success.

"It's truly an honour to debut in this legendary race."


While the likes of Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard and Wout Van Aert, both injured, Primoz Roglic and Remco Evenepoel are all absent, there is still enough quality in the field to test Pogacar.

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) finished second to Roglic last year and the Welsh former Tour de France champion is the highest-profile rival to Pogacar although, at the age of nearly 38, a repeat of last year might be his best hope.

Thomas has a strong team around him with Dutchman Thymen Arensman (sixth last year) and Norwegian Tobias Foss capable of challenging in the general classification.

Australian Ben O'Connor (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) arrives in good form, while Belgian Cian Uijtdebroeks has the chance to make his mark after being handed his first leadership role with powerful Dutch team Visma-Lease a Bike.

This year's Giro is the shortest in terms of overall distance since 1979 and, while there are some savage days ahead in the Alps, the climbing will be a tad less arduous than in previous years, another factor suiting Pogacar.

Italian interest will likely centre around Filippo Ganna who will be favourite for the two time trials on offer this year.

The race finishes in Rome on 26 May.