Pogacar rules comfortably in the first week of the Giro d` Italia

Pogacar is 2’40” ahead of Daniel Felipe Martínez and has won three of the nine stages so far. He has put on a show on every stage of his Giro debut. The question is whether he will be conservative or extend his dominance with the Tour de France just two weeks away.

Tadej Pogacar (UAE) was expected to lead the Giro d’Italia at this stage. A week into the race and the first day of rest has come and gone. Even his rivals were expecting something similar. However, the tyranny with which he has dominated his Giro debut reminds one of a schoolboy who wants to go out and play with his friends. Well, those who can keep up with him.

Nine days into the race, he is 2’40” ahead of Daniel Felipe Martínez (Bora) and 2’58” ahead of Geraint Thomas (Ineos), the Slovenian’s two main rivals at the start. They held their ground, but Pogacar devoured them mercilessly and at this point, if they have any morale left, it will be severely limited.

The Slovenian leads the general classification and is the points leader. He has won three of the nine stages, beaten specialists in the time trials and climbers in the mountains. As if that weren’t enough, on Sunday, the day before the first rest day, he even allowed himself the luxury of leading his team-mate Juan Sebastian Molano in the sprint. With all the risk that entails. It doesn’t matter. He has plenty of super fuel left.

Nine stages and just over a third of the Giro d’Italia have passed, and the real question is: will he slow down with the Tour de France on his mind, or will he continue to dominate ruthlessly until the end? 

His party started on the first day in Turin. He attacked on the final climb and only Jonathan Narvaez (Ineos) and Maximilan Schachmann (Bora) passed him in the final metres. He scared the favourites. He wanted to win where he wasn’t expected. A restless child’s mischievous act. He showed no mercy the next day in the Sanctuary of Oropa. 

Daniel Felipe and Geraint Thomas struggled to keep up and the Slovenian raised his arms in victory. Stage win and overall lead. The pink jersey suits him. Miguel Indurain suffered badly there in 1994 when the Spanish rider fell behind the Russian’s pace. “I was in control,” he said at the finish. 

The normally unflappable five-time Tour de France champion almost suffered for the first time. He had won both the Giro and the Tour in 1993 and 1994. Also at Oropa in 1999, Marco Pantani put on a show on the 12km climb. He suffered a breakdown and came to a standstill. At the top of the climb, he started a comeback of 49 riders to win. The pirate also completed the double. The last to do so.

And from Oropa to the rest day it was a daily exhibition. It was the turn of the sprinters. But even in this terrain he wanted to surprise them. So far, Jonathan Mial (Lidl Trek) has been the fastest, but the victories have been shared Tim Merlier (Soudal), Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) and this Sunday’s victory went to the very young Olav Kooij (Team Visma-Lease a Bike). 

It’s worth noting that on this final stage, the golden boy of the UAE team had the idea to lead out his team-mate, Colombian Juan Sebastian Molano.

He has embarked on a difficult and risky adventure that perhaps wasn’t meant for him. But Pogacar is a different kind of cyclist and his directors can’t tame him. He wouldn’t be the same if they took away his instincts. And of course the fans would protest. It’s a pleasure to watch him race. Another matter is the helplessness of his rivals.

The first week also saw the victory of Spanish rider Pelayo Sánchez (Movistar), a Giro debutant. He infiltrated a breakaway with Julian Alaphilipe (Soudal), a three-time world champion with an impressive palmares, and beat him to the line. It was the first Giro d’Italia won by a Spaniard since 2019.

Little more needs to be said about Pogacar’s performance in the two most demanding stages, the time trial in Perugia and the climb to the special category port of Plati di Tivo. In the time trial, he beat the formidable specialist Philipo Ganna (Ineos) by 17 seconds. 

He was two minutes ahead of Geraint Thomas, who also excels in this discipline, but who had to give in because he is 14 years older. On the climb the next day, alongside his praetorian Rafa Majka (UAE), he once again left his rivals in the dust.

The middle week of the race will begin on Tuesday, with opportunities for both the adventurous and the sprinters. A new 31-kilometre time trial on Saturday and Sunday, followed by a 200-kilometre race over Livigno with the Mortirolo in between, will be a recipe for high demands. Sublime.

Pogacar could go home with a historic and even bigger lead, barring any unexpected events or unlikely breakdowns. However, this is cycling, anything can happen. At some point, the Slovenian could take his foot off the pedal and start thinking about winning the Tour de France in July. 

For now, his other rivals, Jonas Vingegaard, Primoz Roglic and Remco Evenepoel, will be training and conserving some energy, but also witnessing the reign of their biggest for the grand boucle at the Giro d’Italia and his intimidating performance. Make the best of the break. It will do them good.

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