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Giro hat-trick for Milan with Pogacar poised for crunch weekend

Team Lidl-Trek rider Jonathan Milan. Photo: Luca Bettini/AFP

Italian sprinter Jonathan Milan claimed a hat-trick of wins in this year’s Giro d’Italia on Friday after flying to victory in the 13th stage as Tadej Pogacar maintained his overall lead.

Leader of the sprint points standings, Milan strengthened his hold on the mauve jersey after dominating the rest of pack in a mass bunch sprint finish at Cento in Emilia-Romagna to add to his wins in the fourth and 11th stages.

“I’m so happy,” said the 6ft 4in (1.8 metres) rider. “My team did a really huge job catching up with the lead group to put us in the sprint.”

Ahead of two crunch stages this weekend nothing changed for UAE rider Pogacar at the top of the overall standings, the Slovenian holding his 2min 40sec advantage on Colombian Bora leader Daniel Martinez.

Inoes veteran Geraint Thomas lurks in third at 2min 56sec and has been riding under the radar with the intention of peaking in week three.

The race however is far from over and on Saturday a 31km individual time trial is followed by Sunday’s “monster” 220km mountain stage with a latent threat for wholesale change in the standings.

A similar pair of stages in the Alps on the 2023 Tour de France laid waste to Pogacar’s campaign to win a third French Tour.

But the 25-year-old remains the man to beat as he towers above the field in his debut Giro in a boldly declared bid to win both the Italian race and the Tour de France this season.

“I’ve been preparing for this every day and I’m hoping to have the best legs possible,” said Pogacar, who warms down with a spell on his time trial bike after each stage.

“It’s a three week race so there’s a long way to go and each day can be important,” he said.

Pogacar hinted he might not go all out in the time trial.

“You have to be careful not to dig too deep,” he said. “Because Sunday’s stage is a monster, it will be the toughest mountain stage I’ve raced yet.”

Sunday’s finish line is at 2,385m altitude at Mottolino and could suit Martinez, Australia’s Ben O’Connor or French climber Romain Bardet, all of whom are in the running for the podium.

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