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Pogačar, as if by magic



It almost looked like a sign of destiny. Aspiring legend Tadej Pogačar suffering a badly timed mechanical – and slipping as well – at the foot of the climb to the Oropa Sanctuary. Just like Marco Pantani 25 years ago. There really could not have been a more sensational coincidence, even if the final ascent took on less romantic and decidedly more pragmatic and brutal features.

No one attacked Pogačar after the puncture, meaning that UAE Team Emirates brought him back to the front of the peloton in no time at all, and immediately set the pace, dropping one rider after another. There was no room for tactics, anticipation was impossible.

The Slovenian opened up the throttle with 4.4 km to go as the riders reached the steepest part of the climb. Ben O’Connor tried to repeat what Narvaez did yesterday and hold Pogačar’s wheel hoping he would slow down. He didn’t, and after 200 metres the Australian ran out of steam, lost the Slovenian’s wheel and was then caught by Geraint Thomas first, and then by the heavily reduced group of favourites. The toll for trying to follow Tadej proved even higher a couple of kilometres later, when O’Connor lost contact with the chasers as well, losing a full minute at the end of the stage. A similar fate befell the Maglia Rosa Jhonatan Narvaez, who initially tried to respond to Tadej’s lunge, but then bounced back to more than two minutes.

While Pogačar was riding undisturbed towards his first success in the Giro (he has now won in all three Grand Tours), the Maglia Rosa and that very same summit finish that propelled Marco Pantani into the myth, an exciting tussle for second place was taking place behind. In the end it was Daniel Martinez (Bora-hansgrohe) who took it, with Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) third, and then a host of contenders ready to give everything in the next 19 stages. Talking of Thomas, today he took his first podium of the season… at 38 years of age, he confirms that he knows how to get ready for big events.

Verdicts? Not too many, other than the obvious one that Pogačar is the man to beat. Romain Bardet (dsm-firmenich PostNL), on the other hand, was confirmed as being a little behind in terms of condition, losing another 1’20’’ today. Though the biggest disappointment came from Bahrain Victorious, with Damiano Caruso at 1’29” and Antonio Tiberi at 2’24”. But the Giro is still long, very long. After the fire and flames of the first two days, the next three stages should be hunting ground for the sprinters. Stay tuned.

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