Timing, luck, and form: Pogacar set to hold off Vingegaard, Roglic, and Evenepoel in quest for historic double

The Giro is over. Storm Tadej wreaked havoc and claimed more than a quarter of the stage victories. His lead in the general classification was nearly ten minutes over second-place Dani Martinez. Such a gap has not been seen in recent history. Moreover, no other rider from the top ten won a stage. Tadej Pogacar's dominance was even greater than many had anticipated and perhaps even hoped. In the Giro, we saw the pure class and true nature of the Slovenian. La corsa rosa was not a hopeful conclusion for Pogacar’s competitors in the Tour de France. The path to the rare double is clear.

From day two, the rest were gasping for air. The difference made in just a few kilometers at Oropa immediately exposed the staggering gap to the competition. Martinez, Geraint Thomas, Antonio Tiberi, and Ben O’Connor. They all rode their own race. Bravely proclaiming that they hoped for more. Hoping for a miracle, of course, a vain hope. They were effortlessly outsprinted at Prati di Tivo. Got sent home in the time trial. With playful ease, they got left behind on the Livigno. Even when Pogacar perhaps did not need to win, at Monte Pana, the rest of the field was not strong enough to stay ahead.

A stormy expression at Passo Brocon: Pogacar would have liked to compete for the win in every stage

On Monte Grappa, Pogacar could let loose one last time. The Giro had been a playground for him, the monstrous mountain in northeastern Italy just the last little game. While race leader Giulio Pellizzari hoped for mercy, the pink jersey zoomed past one more time. Not a chance. That stage was his. Because it was the last mountain stage. Because he just felt like it. Because it was close to Slovenia. Pogacar could have climbed Monte Grappa five more times that day. And perhaps because he also felt he had missed some opportunities. Maybe Pogacar regretted a few days earlier in retrospect.

The seventeenth stage to Passo Brocon symbolized the struggle between Pogacar and the mere mortals. Breakaway rider Georg Steinhauser soloed to a beautiful stage win. In the rear, the other classification men tried to jostle each other desperately. With an impassive face, the pink jersey watched this situation briefly. Then he simply accelerated. Just to demonstrate that he did not belong here. He saluted the tifosi at the finish, yet his expression was stormy. Pogacar could have easily won that stage. And deep down, he also wanted to win.

timing, luck, and form: pogacar set to hold off vingegaard, roglic, and evenepoel in quest for historic double

Pogacar lets Georg Steinhauser take the victory in the seventeenth stage

Pogacar has invented a new type of 'dominance in grand tours.' Where in the past, riders who gave no gifts were sometimes seen as arrogant rulers, Pogacar has taken it to another level. The rest were in total submission. He was simply too good, simply unstoppable. Addicted to raising both hands in the air in victory. Too focused on winning races to give away anything. In the Giro, Pogi stood in the middle. The rest formed a large circle around him. They danced for 21 days around the Slovenian. Free from mishap and misfortune, the Giro d’Italia was barely more than a victory lap for Pogacar.

Roglic,Evenepoel and Vingegaard as question marks: Pogacar's 2024 attempt at the double is perfectly timed

So far, the attempt to secure the Giro-Tour double in 2024 has gone perfectly. Pogacar deliberately skipped races, including the notorious Tour of the Basque Country, to avoid risks towards his biggest goals, continuing on the lessons from 2023. In the Spanish hills, Jonas Vingegaard, Primoz Roglic, and Remco Evenepoel, by far the biggest challengers to the Slovenian in France, dropped out injured. Roglic and Evenepoel took a hit in their July preparations. Vingegaard is fighting against time to be fit enough for the start in Florence and for the grueling three weeks that follow.

timing, luck, and form: pogacar set to hold off vingegaard, roglic, and evenepoel in quest for historic double

Will Jonas Vingegaard recover in time to take on the titan duel with Pogacar?

At the same time, Pogacar's choice for the 2024 Giro has been a great one. In past decades, the Giro-Tour double mostly resulted in an empty tank in the Tour for riders who had already pushed to their limits in Italy. However, when in December 2023 the classification riders slowly announced their goals for the new season, one thing soon became apparent: the Giro could not count on a fantastic field of participants. Winning the Giro and coming through it relatively fresh was an option, to also be in form for the Tour. This scenario was perfectly executed by UAE Team Emirates with their protégé. Pogacar came out of the Giro fresh. He just needs to maintain his peak form during a final altitude training camp.

The Critérium du Dauphiné starts on Sunday. There, Roglic and Evenepoel will test their legs in competition for the first time since early April. Not much is known yet about Vingegaard. It's questionable if he will make the Tour and, if so, in what condition. Thus, the three biggest challengers to Pogacar are more uncertain factors than perfectly prepared challengers. But the real question is whether anyone can challenge the Giro winner. Beyond luck, timing, and preparation, Pogacar simply has the best legs and form. The two-time Tour winner is fully ready to finally follow in Marco Pantani’s footsteps and claim his third Tour victory.

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