A plane landing in Milan and a sign reading “Giro d’Italia”, followed by a perfectly pronounced “Andiamo” (Italian for “Let’s go”) delivered with that smile that everyone has come to love.
29 seconds that shook up the Sunday – and Christmas shopping – of cycling fans worldwide and delivered the formal announcement of Tadej Pogačar’s participation in the Giro d’Italia 2024, his debut at the Italian Grand Tour.
Twenty-five years old and leader of the UCI world classification for the past three years, the Slovenian approaches the Corsa Rosa boasting an already superb track record, strong with 63 victories in his first five seasons as a professional, an impressive roster for any rider, let alone a non-sprinter, making him one of the peloton’s greats.
Pogi has fond memories of riding on the roads of Italy. His relationship with Italy dates back to 2016, his second year as a juniors, where his climbing skills began to emerge, enabling him to win a stage and the general classification at the Giro della Lunigiana, followed two years later by the Giro del Friuli victory among the Under-23s. The transition to pro cycling was a foregone conclusion for this jaw-dropping talent, and UAE Team Emirates managed to beat the competition. In 2019 came his debut in a Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España, and it was show time right from the get-go! Three stage victories and a podium finish in the GC, a preamble to what would occur a little over twelve months later when, as a newcomer, he would sweep the competition at the Tour de France, overturning the general classification in the now epic time trial at La Planche des Belles Filles, where he smashed compatriot and rival Primož Roglič by 1’56”. This cycling monster claimed the 2021 Tour as well, proving not to be a one-hit wonder, in a season in which his victory box exceeded double figures for the first time. These include the UAE Tour, the Tirreno-Adriatico and the first of three Il Lombardia in a row, an achievement only previously accomplished by Alfredo Binda and Fausto Coppi. Cycling of a bygone era, which Pogačar seems to fully know and appreciate, and which he sometimes like to bring back to life, as was the case at the Strade Bianche 2022, when he dominated the race with a solo attack of over 50km. In the season of encores at the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico, Pogi broadened his horizons and went for the great Classics such as the Milano-Sanremo, where he came 5th, and the Tour of Flanders, where he finished at the foot of the podium.
Revenge on Belgian soil would come in the season just ended, in which Pogačar won in a stellar duel over Mathieu Van der Poel two weeks after finishing fourth in the Classicissima won by the current World Champion. A crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which kept him in the pits for almost two months, did not prevent the Slovenian from taking 17 victories, his personal best to date.
A new and unique challenge now opens up for Pogačar, the Corsa Rosa, launched with that ‘”Andiamo” that is monopolising social media and will make the countdown to the next 4 May even more exciting.