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Pogacar lays down Giro gauntlet with ominous maiden stage victory

Tadej Pogacar took control of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday with his maiden stage win on the Grand Tour, blitzing his rivals to the summit finish at the Sanctuary of Oropa and snatching the overall leader’s pink jersey.

Slovenian Pogacar, who is taking part in his first ever Giro, narrowly missed out on victory on Saturday’s opening stage but made it clear he is the man to beat with a trademark burst near the end of the final punishing climb, skipping clear from his rivals with his trademark swagger.

The pre-race favourite is bidding to become the first man to win the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double since Marco Pantani in 1998 and attacked on an alpine climb covered in tributes to the late Italian.

UAE rider Pogacar bounced back from a crash just as the peloton approached the climb towards Oropa and turned on the afterburners with four kilometres remaining of the 161km second stage.

Pogacar has now won a stage in all three of cycling’s Grand Tours and after his eighth win in just 12 days of competitive racing in 2024, the 25-year-old looks unstoppable as the Giro winds its way to Rome later this month.

“It was always in my mind to have all three stage wins. It is something not many riders have and it’s a big thing in cycling so I’m super happy,” said Pogacar.

“They called me to the front and we set a pace that we liked so it was perfect.”

Pogacar, a two-time Tour de France winner, finished 27 seconds ahead of Daniel Martinez and another of his key rivals Geraint Thomas, stripping the pink jersey from Saturday’s winner Jhonatan Narvaez.

Thomas said after the stage that “Tadej is Tadej” with a shrug of the shoulders after dropping 45 seconds behind Pogacar in the overall standings.

Pogacar’s Giro ‘dream’

Monday’s third stage gives Pogacar and his general classification rivals something of a break with a mostly flat 166km run between Novara and Fossano which looks set up for the sprinters.

“I just wanted the stage win… the dream was to take the pink jersey and now I can relax a bit the next few days and we stay safe in the sprints,” added Pogacar.

A day that ended with fireworks started slowly, as a group of five Italian riders including former Giro stage winner Davide Bais built up a two-and-a-half-minute lead on the peloton over an uneventful run towards the first up-and-down climb of the day to Crocemosso with around 65km left in the stage.

Andrea Piccolo, who was one of the early escapees, made a burst of his own on the category three Oasi Zagna ascent and built up a healthy lead of well over a minute on the chasing group as he began the next Nelva climb which had a maximum gradient of 12 percent.

The peloton, which included all the general classification contenders, began to cut the three-minute gap which separated them from Piccolo on the final descent before taking on the punishing, climatic push to Oropa.

There was a brief scare for Pogacar who crashed but quickly caught back up and then moved with teammates towards the front of the peloton, which swallowed up Piccolo with 6.5km remaining.

With UAE positioned at the head of the pack it was only a matter of time before Pogacar attacked and when he did no-one could stay with him.

Thomas gave up the ghost after a short-lived attempt to keep up with Pogacar, who rolled into Oropa and took control of a race which already looks like his to lose.

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