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Narvaez, checkmate to the king


Tadej Pogačar started his first Giro d’Italia as everyone expected, by putting on a show. However, on his way, or rather on his wheel, was Jhonatan Narvaez, who stormed past him in the sprint of Corso Moncalieri, in Turin, taking both the stage win and the first Maglia Rosa from the Slovenian champion. For the strength he has shown in this 2024, it would have been easy to imagine Tadej on top of GC right from the very first stage, but cycling is unpredictable and the Corsa Rosa is indeed one of the most unpredictable competitions in cycling.

The opening stage, which started from Venaria Reale, was crackling, as it always must be when the Maglia Rosa is vacant. UAE Team Emirates’ forcing began from the first transit on the insidious San Vito climb and then continued on the Colle Maddalena, with a stoic Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché-Wanty) holding out in front, picking up the points to ensure he would wear first Maglia Azzurra (the KOM jersey) at the end of the stage.

As is customary in the Giro d’Italia, there was drama from the get-go as Stage 1 saw losses for the likes of Romain Bardet, who lost 57’’ and Ineos Grenadiers’ Thymen Arensman, expected to be a domestique for Geraint Thomas, who lost 2’10’’.

Pogačar’s team, however, are not quite so unbeatable and this became evident on the Colle Maddalena, when Tadej was left alone with Rafal Majka and was forced to close in on dozens of attacks. Before the final wall of San Vito, a very strong bunch formed, featuring Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-hansgrohe), Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco AlUla), Giulio Pellizzari (VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), Mikkel Honoré (EF Education-EasyPost), Alex Baudin (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and Nicola Conci (Alpecin-Deceuninck). The latter even attempted a solo effort, with Pogačar telling Majka not to bother with the chase, as he would close the margin in the 1,500 metres of climbing before the dive into Turin.

Pogačar’s first acceleration came, right on time, with 4 km to go. A deadly progression, which shredded the group and disintegrated the hopes of the attackers, who were caught one after the other as if they were climbing in slow motion. Conci, stoic but drained, was caught right at the top, just a step away from the pink dream and from his first victory as a professional, and at that point he had no choice but to raise the white flag and start focusing on one of the next stages.

Game over? Forget about it, because when Tadej turned around to check the gap he had built, he saw at his wheel a proud and determined Ecuadorian in the national champion’s jersey, that Jhonatan Narvaez who had won in Cesenatico in 2020 and who seems to be getting stronger every year. As German Max Schachmann made it three leaders on the descent, it was clear that the winner would come from this front trio.

At that point, there was no more time or space for anyone to try anything and the show came down to a long 3-man sprint to the line where King Pogačar was beaten by both. Narvaez sends Ecuador into ecstasy and takes the first Maglia Rosa. But tomorrow is Oropa time, a place of myths and legends… the right place for Pogačar.

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