Pogačar primed to win Giro after sensational sixth win on stage 20 – Giro d’Italia

Giro d’Italia 2024

Stage 20

Tadej Pogačar’s historic Giro d’Italia debut reached its climax today as the Slovenian rode to a stunning solo victory on stage 20 over the double ascent of the Monte Grappa to secure his maglia rosa.

The race leader attacked at 36km remaining from a small group of elite climbers, who had managed to hold pace with the blistering speed set by UAE Team Emirates, and rode clear to an enormous solo victory of 2:07.

Taking second place was Valentin Paret-Peintre (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) ahead of Dani Martínez (Bora-Hansgrohe) and the main GC contenders.

Attacking with 5.4km left on the second ascent of the Monte Grappa, he rode through the remnants of the day’s breakaway – by then a solo Giulio Pellizzari (VF Group–Bardiani CSF-Faizanè) – to reach the summit alone and descend to overall victory.

Behind him, a battle for the podium unfolded, with Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) losing pace with his fellow GC contenders on the lower slopes of the Monte Grappa and seeing his 22-second margin to second place drift far out of reach, and instead had to fend off a challenge for the podium from Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain Victorious).

Thomas showcased his descending skill as he managed to bridge back to Tiberi and Martínez on the descent and so finished at the same time, holding onto his podium spot comfortably.

“Rui [Oliveira] and [Sebastian] Molano did a great job until the first climb then Vegard [Stake Laengen] and Mikkel [Bjerg] set a really good pace on the first part of the climb, which I was really happy with,” Pogačar said after the finish.

“We made a really good pace through the top and downhill we took no risks. Then the uphill we set as we said it in the meeting. It was perfect and I was so happy that I had a good gap on the top and I didn’t need to go full gas on the downhill.

The riders had to contend with rain early on stage 20.

“We wanted the pink jersey from stage 2 – a lot of obligations every day, a lot of things to do all day. It just goes to show today is another test before summer to see how it is. I wanted to finish the Giro with good mentality and good shape and I think I achieved that,” he said. “I cannot describe how it was feeling with all the fans on the climb.

“I never been in Rome before,” Pogačar finished, “but I’m going to enjoy it for sure.”

Pogačar’s margin of victory on the stage, added to 10 seconds of time bonuses for the stage win, extends his lead in the overall standings to 9:56 – a stark contrast to a race which had not seen more than a three-minute winning margin for a decade.

The peloton set off from a rain-soaked Alpago with two climbs of the intimidating Monte Grappa ahead of them. With an 18km length and 8.1% gradient, the ascent would always be an intimidating one to even cover after three weeks of racing.

The stage was clearly set for a final showpiece from Pogačar, so a breakaway would need to work hard to break the elastic of UAE and the other GC contenders. No surprise, then, that attacks flew from the flag.

Stage 17 winner Georg Steinhauser (EF Education–EasyPost) was the main protagonist of the early break efforts, managing to ride clear of the peloton several times but never breaking the elastic.

Instead, it was a two-man effort from Davide Ballerini (Astana Qazaqstan) and Lorenzo Girmani (Groupama-FDJ) which managed to establish some distance. Those two rode just within sight of the peloton at a gap of 30 seconds, and within 20km of the stage, a nine-man group mounted a chase.

With 140km remaining, Ballerini and Girmani had been caught by the chasers and a breakaway of 11 had been formed – promising to be the main move of the day. Alongside the two initial escapees the group contained Andrea Pietrobon (Polti Kometa), Pelayo Sánchez (Movistar), Nicola Conci (Alpecin–Deceuninck), Andrea Vendrame (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Ed Theuns (Lidl-Trek), Alessandro Tonelli (VF Group–Bardiani CSF–Faizanè), Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Rubén Fernández (Cofidis) and Henok Mulubrhan (Astana Qazaqstan).

The break worked well together and stretched out to a lead of around four minutes – the largest gap which the peloton seemed willing to tolerate, as they hovered between three and four minutes ahead.

The breakaway climbs in breathtaking scenery.

In the main peloton, the only real drama was a visit to the doctor’s car for Pogačar – seemingly agitated with arm pain.

With 100km to go, the race met with the first ascent of the Monte Grappa and it was with no surprise that the order of the breakaway began to fragment.

Attacks came from Vendrame, Sánchez, Janssens and Mulubrhan, who morphed between various new breakaway iterations. However, the eventual splinter group was formed of Janssens, Sánchez and Tonelli, who held a gap of 1:20 into the final kilometres of the climb as the rest of the break was swallowed by the main peloton.

Bridging from the main peloton, Giulio Pellizzari (VF Group–Bardiani CSF–Faizanè) stormed to the summit to join the three breakaway riders and take the summit KOM points.

Pelizzari and Sánchez broke free on the descent, joined by Pelizzari’s teammate Filippo Fiorelli – who flicked on and off the leading duo as they approached the base of the Monte Grappa for a second time.

The small breakaway reached the climb, now bathed in sun, 2:40 ahead of the peloton, as Pellizzari pulled clear to lead the race into the second half of the Monte Grappa.

With Pogačar protected amid the GC heads of state, the pace was acutely painful for the field as the rear of the main group crumbled and all remnants of the day’s breakaway attempts were swallowed up to leave Pellizzari out solo with a tentative two-minute lead.

By the halfway point of the climb, all that remained of the main group was an elite selection of climbers – spitting out even Romain Bardet (dsm–firmenich PostNL) – as the gap to Pelizzari was pulled down to only 1:30. With Pogačar primed for his final attack, that small gap seemed certain to evaporate over the next few kilometres.

Pogačar lifts his bike aloft as he prepares for his coronation in Rome.

With 5.4km remaining, Pogačar delivered on the anticipation with a blistering attack that left the main GC contenders almost stationary. Thomas could deliver nothing in response, having already been shed by Rafal Majka pace-setting a kilometre before.

It took only a few minutes for Pogačar to catch Pelizzari and the two stretched out a yawning lead on the only remaining GC contender Martínez.

Pelizzari held pace until the final 2km of the climb. From there, Pogačar had only the road ahead of him as he rode on to a historic maglia rosa.

All roads lead to Rome for tomorrow’s concluding stage 21 of the 2024 Giro. The riders leave the city for an outing to Lido di Castel Fusano on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It’s 16 kilometres one way and another 16 kilometres back before the Giro enters its finishing circuit.

The finishing circuit is 9.5 kilometres long. It resembles last year’s lap through the eternal city, but it’s not a carbon copy, although its essence is the same – flat.

It’s the third Rome finish in the last seven editions of the Giro d’Italia. In 2018, Ireland’s Sam Bennett outgunned Elia Viviani and Jean-Pierre Drucker in Rome, while Chris Froome also crossed the line celebrating. The four-time Tour de France winner won the Giro of 2018, not knowing that it would be his last ever victory in a cycling contest.

Another iconic rider took the spoils last year. Mark Cavendish sprinted to triumph on the Via dei Fori Imperiali in commanding style, while Primoz Roglic sealed the GC victory.

The second and third intermediate sprint come with time bonuses of 3, 2 and 1 seconds, while 10, 6 and 4 seconds are awarded to the first three riders on the line.

Stage 20 result:

  1. Tadej Pogačar (SLO, UAE Team Emirates): 4:58.23
  2. Valentin Paret-Peintre (FRA, Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) +2.07
  3. Daniel Martinez (COL, Bora-hansgrohe) s.t.
  4. Antonio Tiberi (ITA, Bahrain Victorious) s.t.
  5. Einer Rubio (COL, Movistar) s.t.
  6. Giulio Pellizzari (ITA, VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizane;’) s.t.
  7. Geraint Thomas (GBR, Ineos Grenadiers) s.t.
  8. Ben O’Connor (AUS, Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) s.t.
  9. Michael Storer (AUS, Tudor) +2.31
  10. Rafa Majka (POL, UAE Team Emirates) +3.08

General Classification:

  1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO, UAE Team Emirates) in 76:22.13
  2. Daniel Martinez (COL, Bora-hansgrohe) + 9.56
  3. Geraint Thomas (GBR, Ineos Grenadiers) + 10.24
  4. Ben O’Connor (AUS, Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) + 12.07
  5. Antonio Tiberi (ITA, Bahrain Victorious) + 12.49
  6. Thymen Arensman (NED, INEOS Grenadiers) +14.31
  7. Einer Rubio (COL, Movistar) +15.52
  8. Jan Hirt (CZE, Soudal Quick-Step) +18.05
  9. Romain Bardet (FRA, dsm-firmenich PostNL) + 20.32
  10. Michael Storer (Aus, Tudor) +21.11

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