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Opinion: Pogačar, Pogačar, Pogačar & Other Takeaways from the 2024 Giro

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

A lot of words have been written about Tadej Pogačar’s cycling genius over the three weeks of this Giro d’Italia, including in this space. And justifiably so, because his performance has been so brilliant that it has already become legendary.

I don’t want to add too many words to that total because I would only be repeating myself. I will restrict myself to simply noting a few facts about what he accomplished in his first Giro appearance – after a brief observation.

It’s not only his immense talent, stamina, bravado and voracious appetite for winning that distinguishes the 26-year-old Slovenian from every other cyclist that has ever raced on the world’s roads. I make this statement on the basis of an incident that occurred towards the end of stage 20, when Pogačar had a lead of 2 minutes over his nearest pursuers in the stage and was on his way to another easy stage win, his sixth.

He had broken away, as usual, from a small group of GC contenders on the second arduous climb of Monte Grappa (18.1km @ 8.1%, with ramps of 15%), 36km from the finish line. It had been a very testing three weeks (though Pogačar often made it appear as if he were on a weekend recreational ride), and the two Monte Grappa ascents had taken their toll on everyone.

With 21km left to race in the 184km stage, a boy of about 10 ran alongside him on a straight stretch of road, apparently declaring his admiration for the superstar. Pogačar slowed down, grabbed a water bottle from a UAE Team Emirates soigneur at the side of the road and, in one swift and elegant motion, without ceasing to ride, handed it to the boy (who must also be praised for this athleticism and perseverance).


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It would be easy to say that the UAE Team Emirates leader, knowing a camera was on him, was simply playing to the crowd, as he likes to do. But this was no premeditated act; it was pure instinct, the natural reaction of an athlete who clearly loves his sport and loves his fans.

Nothing else he did in this Giro or any other race he has impressed me as much and revealed so much of the man behind the legend. He just can’t help it. True superstars create their own legend simply by being themselves.

And now for the facts:

  1. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) in 76:22:13
  2. Daniel Martínez (BORA-hansgrohe) at 9:56
  3. Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) 10:24
  4. Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) 12:07
  5. Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain Victorious) 12:49
  6. Thymen Arensman (INEOS Grenadiers) 14:31
  7. Einer Rubio (Movistar) 15:52
  8. Jan Hirt (Soudal–QuickStep) 18:05
  9. Romain Bardet (dsm-firmenich PostNL) 20:32
  10. Michael Storer (Tudor) 21:11

The 9:56 gap to second-place Dani Martínez represents the biggest winning margin at any Grand Tour since Vittorio Adorni won the Giro by 11:26 in 1965.

2024 Giro

With 5 stage victories while wearing the maglia rosa, the race leader’s pink jersey, he equaled the record for a single Giro held by Learco Guerra (1934) and Eddy Merckx (1973). His 6 stage victories in a single Giro are the most since 2004, when Alessandro Petacchi took 9.

As for other takeaways from this remarkable race, let’s also applaud Martínez, who in achieving his first ever Grand Tour podium finish not only was the best of the rest but, more important, justified his decision to leave INEOS Grenadiers, where he had been relegated to support rider of, first, Egan Bernal, when the young Colombian won the Tour de France in 2019, and then Geraint Thomas. That he did so well despite losing the excellent young support rider Florian Lipowitz early in the race is a credit to his talent and ambition.

Three cheers also for Julian Alaphilippe, who has clearly recovered his mojo, after being hampered for several years by crashes and illness. He not only won stage 12 by riding in a two-man breakaway for 126km, but also illuminated much of the second half of the Giro with equally swashbuckling, if not foolhardy, attempts to outwit and outrace the bunch. Take that, Patrick Lefevere!

Much credit also belongs to three young riders. The 22-year-old Bahrain Victorious rider Antonio Tiberi finished fifth and won the white jersey for best young rider. Georg Steinhauser (EF Education–EasyPost), also 22, won stage 17 with a remarkable solo breakaway and looked strong on several climbs. And 20-year-old Giulio Pellizzari (VF Group–Bardiani CSF–Faizanè), the youngest rider in the race, tried twice – on the weather-shortened stage 16 and on stage 20 – to outclimb his elders, but was caught both times by Pogačar. On stage 16, he was only 0.7km from the finish when the man wearing the pink jersey swept past him, a jersey that the winner later gifted to Pellizzari.

A word also for Pogačar’s support team, which had been denigrated as UAE’s B team, but rode faultlessly and courageously throughout the entire race, with the tireless Rafal Majka always providing the final springboard for his leader’s devastating breakaways.

And, finally, Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) was again the best sprinter in the Giro, taking the ciclamino, or purple jersey, for the points classification winner for the second year in a row. He won three stages and finished second four times on his way to a fairly easy win, by 352 points to 225, over Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck), with Soudal–QuickStep’s Tim Merlier, who also won three stages, in third at 193.

Milan’s best performance in the race might have been in a losing cause. On Sunday’s final stage he had a flat tire with 8km left to ride and the bunch already racing towards the line. By the time he got back in the saddle, he had lost 45 seconds and was on his own. He managed not only to make it back to the peloton but, led by his stellar leadout train, was at the front with 0.7km left to race. That he managed to finish second to Merlier despite the effort he had put in just to be in position to contest the sprint was truly impressive.

The 23-year-old powerhouse looks to be on the road to becoming a dominant sprinter for years to come. Let’s hope that he will soon test himself against the current king of the Tour de France sprinters, Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck).