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Tadej, on the shoulders of Giants


He had promised it to all his fans, to all his countrymen who had come all the way from Slovenia to see him in action on the climb up Monte Grappa. And when he promises something, Tadej Pogačar always goes out of his way to be true to his word.

With a giant like Monte Grappa to be tackled twice on the penultima stage of this Giro d’Italia, the phenomenal captain of UAE Team Emirates found the right ground to put up yet another masterpiece, the sixth of a competition that is so emphatically his it is almost ridiculous. Tadej squeezed the most out of all his teammates to keep the race as closed as possible, not giving the slightest chance to the early attackers of the day. The only one who tried to spice things up a bit was the youngest of all, that Giulio Pellizzari (VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè) who makes Italian fans dream with his courage, imagination and talent on the climbs.

Pellizzari held his own for more than half of the last ascent of Monte Grappa, but when Pogačar attacked, chased him down and eventually caught him, the 20-year-old Italian put his heart at rest. It will be for next year. Tadej first pushed away a fan, then gave a water bottle to a kid, brushed the downhill bends as if he had opponents on his heels, and then won, outright won, bowing to the huge Bassano del Grappa crowd.

With 5 victories in the Maglia Rosa, he equalled the record for a single Giro held by Learco Guerra (1934) and Eddy Merckx (1973). With 6 stage victories, he set the best mark since 2004, when Alessandro Petacchi took 9. With 13 seasonal victories, he has already won as much as all of 2021, when the Tirreno-Adriatico, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tour de France and Giro di Lombardia were part of his haul. With 19 days in the Maglia Rosa, he equalled those of Johan de Muynck in 1978 and Evgeni Berzin in 1994. More than them only Franco Chioccioli and Miguel Indurain: 20 in 1991 and 1992; and the record of 21 by Eddy Merckx in 1973, Gianni Bugno in 1990 and Tony Rominger in 1995. In short, Tadej is smashing record after record.

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