"I don’t think even Tadej Pogacar thought it would be that simple" - Philippa York surprised by just how comprehensive Giro d'Italia win was

Despite seemingly riding within himself, Tadej Pogacar leaves the 2024 Giro d'Italia with six stage wins, the King of the Mountains jersey and the Maglia Rosa by a dominant and comprehensive margin of just under ten minutes from second placed Daniel Martinez.

"Pogacar came to the start as the stand out favourite, took the race lead on the second day and never looked to be under any great pressure to relinquish the Maglia Rosa," analyses former Giro d'Italia stage winner and King of the Mountains winner, Philippa York for Cycling News. "Given how he attacked on the opening stage I think he would have quite liked to have led from start to finish. A la Merckx. The comparisons certainly stack up, taking six stages like Eddy Merckx did in ’63 though only two classifications instead of three for the Belgian superstar. However an almost ten minute lead outdoes even the Cannibal."

The lack of a true rival in the general classification was speculated pre-race but to see just how far the gap was between Pogacar and the likes of Martinez, Geraint Thomas, Ben O'Connor and the rest of the GC hopefuls. "You can begin to understand why the other GC contenders came to the realisation that they were in a separate competition and raced between themselves," York assesses. "The few who did try, notably Ben O’Connor in the first week and later on Dani Martínez soon paid the price for their optimism. Therefore once Pogacar accelerated the tactics of who could, would or should chase paralysed the group."

"I don’t think even Pogacar thought it would be that simple and given he rarely looked at his maximum the energy costs to him were certainly lessened," continues the two-time Vuelta a Espana runner-up. "There’s a massive difference between a self-imposed maximal effort and one that is imposed by a rival. With no one able to test the Maglia Rosa in the way that a Jonas Vingegaard or Primož Roglic would then the times that had to ride flat out were pretty limited."

"Both time trials and the mountain top finishes where he took two minutes from the other team leaders he probably rode at his maximum but for the other stage wins he seemed really comfortable," York adds. "It’s all relative, of course, because winning a race hurts, specially atop a climb. Physically he was challenged by the route and the poor weather though I suspect not to the extent his team envisaged, which with the Tour de France next will have been a plus."

Speaking of the Tour de France, Pogacar will likely be in for a harsher test next month as the likes of Roglic, Remco Evenepoel and potentially Vingegaard, whether or not the UAE Team Emirates will be able to emulate Marco Pantani and become the first rider to complete the Giro/Tour double since 1998 remains to be seen according to York.

"With the TdF next, Pogacar rode a sensible race, turning on the power when he needed to and exploiting the circumstances of the others' squabbling when he might not have thought of the win that day. In the end, only one man took the pink shirt off the back of Pogacar and he got the sunglasses too," concludes York. "The awe and gratitude on Giulio Pellizzari’s face was quite possibly the most touching moment of the race and a reminder, too, that Tadej Pogacar isn’t quite the Cannibal he’s accused of being."

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