Pogacar wins Giro d’Italia on debut as Merlier secures final stage

Published May 27, 2024
Team UAE’s Slovenian rider Tadej Pogacar, wearing the overall leader’s pink jersey, cycles with the peloton in the final kilometers of the 21st and last stage of the Giro d’Italia. —AFP
Team UAE’s Slovenian rider Tadej Pogacar, wearing the overall leader’s pink jersey, cycles with the peloton in the final kilometers of the 21st and last stage of the Giro d’Italia. —AFP

ROME: Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar emphatically won the Giro d’Italia on his debut when he retained his unassailable overall lead after Sunday’s 21st and final stage in Rome, winning by the biggest overall margin since 1965.

The 25-year-old UAE Team Emirates rider had been in the leader’s pink jersey since winning stage two, the first of his six stage successes, and finished Sunday’s ceremonial 125-km flat run safely in the bunch as Tim Merlier won the stage.

“I am speechless, it’s hard to describe this moment, it’s amazing,” Pogacar said. “A lot of nice memories for sure, in a while I will see which one was the best moment but I think in general it was a really beautiful Giro.”

Merlier, riding for SoudalQuick-Step, outsprinted Italy’s Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) as the Belgian won his third stage. Milan made his way back to the front for the bunch sprint after crashing on the last lap around the Eternal City.

“For the people, it’s a really big win, but for myself, it feels a bit strange because everybody was already on the plane yesterday, drinking beer and everything,” Merlier said. “Today we need to race. The first part [was] easy, then it was full gas. For me, this kind of race is a bit special, for sprinters a really nice victory.”

Milan, winner of three stages, wins the points classification, ahead of Australian Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) who finished third in the final stage.

Pogacar finished nine minutes and 56 seconds ahead of Colombia’s Daniel Martinez (BORA-Hansgrohe), with last year’s runner-up Geraint Thomas of Wales (Ineos Grenadiers) a further 28 seconds behind in third in the overall standings.

He added the Giro title to his two Tour de France triumphs in 2020 and 2021 and did it in style, proving exactly why he had been the pre-race favourite as nobody came even close to challenging once Pogacar laid down an early marker on day two.

Last year’s winner and fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic was absent from the race along with Remco Evenepoel and Jonas Vingegaard but nothing can take away from Pogacar’s domination in Italy, and he will now aim for the Tour de France.

Pogacar took control on stage seven by winning the individual time trial ahead of Filippo Ganna, stretching his lead to over two and a half minutes and followed that by winning the next stage.

Ganna gained revenge in the next time trial, but Pogacar still extended the gap to his rivals when finishing second, and by stage 15 it was all but over when the Slovenian won his fourth stage and put an extra three minutes between himself and Thomas.

Pogacar won the weather-hit next stage and showed no mercy on the penultimate day when going solo to take his sixth stage to cement his grip on the maglia rosa, with an overall lead not seen in almost 60 years at the Giro.

The Slovenian also won the mountains classification and could relax on the final day and enjoyed his first ride around the streets of the Italian capital safe in the knowledge he was the Giro winner without a doubt.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2024

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