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Pogacar on brink of Giro triumph after crushing penultimate stage win

Tadej Pogacar is one day away from victory at the Giro d’Italia after the Slovenian superstar blew away the competition to win Saturday’s penultimate stage.

Riding a bright pink bike to match the leader’s jersey he has held since the second stage, Pogacar surged to his sixth win in his debut Giro which he is closing out in a style reminiscent of cycling icon Eddy Merckx.

The Slovenian star will be crowned champion at the end of Sunday’s procession around Rome, unless an unprecedented disaster strikes in the Italian capital.

And the way he has pulverised the competition, heading into the Rome finale with a near 10-minute lead over Daniel Martinez, suggests he can become the first man since the deceased Marco Pantani to do the elusive Giro-Tour de France double.

Only seven riders have won cycling’s two biggest three-week Grand Tours in the same year, with tragic Pantani doing it in the same year that Pogacar was born, 1998.

The UAE rider made his move with 36 kilometres remaining and quickly breezed past young gun Giulio Pellizzari who had to watch Pogacar waltz off into the distance for the second time this week. 

Pogacar gave Pellizzari his overall leader’s pink jersey as the pair embraced after the 16th stage on Tuesday, when Pogacar overtook the 20-year-old in the final kilometre.

Italian Pellizzari went it alone again on Saturday after passing the early breakaway just before the summit of the first of two brutal climbs of Monte Grappa.

But he could not hold off Pogacar who was expertly guided up the second climb by his team-mates as the other riders trailing in the general classification fell away in the face of an unstoppable assault.

By the time Pogacar crested Monte Grappa for the second time he had stretched his lead over Pellizzari to one minute and 35 seconds.

His dominance was such that he even had the time and wherewithal to hand a young fan his water bottle and give the thumbs up to the adoring crowds that lined the streets of Bassano del Grappa as he cruised to yet another win.

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