Unrelenting Pogačar takes stage 8 victory at Prati di Tivo – Giro d’Italia

Giro d’Italia 2024

Stage 8

Race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) continued his absolute domination of the Giro d’Italia on stage 8, marking each and every attack before powering away in the sprint on the mountain finish to Prati di Tivo to score his third stage win of the race.

The ruthless Slovenian put his team to work throughout the 152km route, preventing the strong 14-man breakaway from getting any sort of insurmountable advantage before the final climb, where UAE dictated the pace and he again showed his superiority in the finale.

After landing what seemed like a knockout blow on yesterday’s individual time trial, Pogačar rubbed salt into the wounds and beat everyone as he did on the first summit finish to Oropa, albeit not in as dominant a fashion but he did take 10 more bonus seconds on the line with a great sprint.

Dani Martínez (Bora-Hansgrohe) was second in the sprint but no match for Pogačar, however, his six bonus seconds gained meant he only lost four to the leader, now 2:40 down overall. Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) was third on the day and gained four seconds on the remaining GC riders in the front group.

“I was not expecting it at all today but as a team, we rode super well from the beginning. We came with a good time gap to the last climb and the team did a super good job to the finish,” said Pogačar. “Rafa [Majka] did an amazing leadout and it was amazing to win here again in Prati di Tivo.”

Pogačar and team boss Mauro Gianetti revealed that it wasn’t in the original plan to go for the win and that it was actually one of the Slovenian’s teammates who put the new plan into action.

“I think my teammates wanted to go for the stage win as soon as we survived the first long categorised climb with Mikkel [Bjerg]. He came back to the bunch and he was all in for chasing the group in front,” Pogačar said.

“Mikkel [Bjerg] and Laengen did a super good job until the final climb and then at the bottom when I saw our guys are still good: Domen [Novak], Felix [Großschartner] and Rafa [Majka], I was confident that we could win today.”

The dominant sprint was also unexpected by the race leader after seeing what Martínez had done in fast finishes to the likes of Remco Evenepoel in a sprint, but he was more than in control.

The breakaway on the road.

“We saw Martínez already this year making super good finishes so obviously I was thinking of him as a main opponent. But I knew there were gonna be some attacks like Tiberi tried a few times and he showed great form actually,” said Pogačar.

“But I had it more or less under control and Rafa [Majka] helped in the last couple of kilometres so it was super good.

“I hope it’s a relaxing day tomorrow but I think the last 50km is quite tricky and can be dangerous so there’s gonna still be some nerves and we need to be focussed until the end of tomorrow and then I think it is a rest day so I cannot wait.”

The 164 riders remaining at the Giro set off from sunny Spoleto after many warmed up on the trainers and prepared for the toughest day of paper so far in Italy with over 3500 metres of elevation gain and the second summit finish of the race awaiting them at Prati di Tivo.

The attacks flew as soon as the flag was waved by race director Stefano Allochio, with UAE Team Emirates ready to mark moves and try to control the day. A furious fight for the breakaway ensued with nearly all teams interested as a real chance at the stage win looked possible.

Huge groups got away on the Forca di Cerro, an unclassified climb which served as the perfect launchpad for a break to form. The likes of Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep) and Georg Steinhauser (EF Education EasyPost) were among the most active but there was so much interest that it struggled to materialise into a cooperative group.

Small splinter groups of three and four would make their way off the front as a bigger group of around 20 continued to dangle in front of the peloton. Romain Bardet (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) was making his presence known and flexing his climbing legs to lead but at only 5:23 down on the lead, this would prove problematic for the break later on.

An eventual breakaway of 14 strong riders finally formed after it came back together at the front after the Forca Capistrello (16.4 km at 5.6%) climb, Jhontatan Narváez, Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers), Alessandro Verre (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Henok Mulubrhan (Astana Qazaqstan), Simon Geschke (Cofidis), Valentin Paret-Peintre (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Nairo Quintana, Pelayo Sánchez (Movistar), Michael Storer (Tudor), Martin Marcelussi (VF Group Bardiani CSF Faizané), Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco AlUla), Alaphilippe, Bardet and Steinhauser.

The lead group tackle the Prat di Tivo.

It looked like the type of group that could make it all the way to the line but they were barely given any advantage, narrowly sustaining more than a two-minute gap on the UAE-led peloton. Pogačar did, however, look slightly isolated at times with only Rafał Majka and Domen Novak alongside him on the hardest uphill sections.

The cooperation from the break lacked any consistency for the next phase of racing after all coming together 100km from the line. Small moves went off the front, riders missed turns and the advantage they had on the peloton looked doomed.

A reignition of pace only came partway through the second climb of the day, the Croce Abbio (8.1 km at 4.7%), as Steinhauser decided the pace wasn’t fast enough and it was time to drop some of the dead weight.

His acceleration pumped some life into the lead group but the advantage was only at 1:30 over the crest of the climb. In the peloton, Mikkel Bjerg and Vegard Stake Laengen had returned for UAE Team Emirates and begun getting through a mountain of work to control the gap, despite the former getting stung by a bee in yesterday’s time trial.

This would continue on the descent with the white shirts of the Emirati team getting into formation for their leader in pink, who was waiting in the wings for the final climb to strike. By this point, the break was barely pushing on.

Once the peloton flew onto the foot of the climb, just 20 seconds separated Pogačar from the lead. Such was the hard pace, multiple riders immediately began to fall away under the pressure, notably Luke Plapp (Jayco AlUla) in the white jersey and Juan Pedro López (Lidl-Trek).

Verre went away on his own just ahead of Bardet as the peloton was getting destroyed by UAE Emirates behind, but Novak’s constant tapping away was keeping the gap tight at under 30 seconds.

Bora-Hansgrohe took over momentarily partway up the 14.7km which averages a 7% gradient, showing they were confident with Martínez against the likes of Thomas. This alongside UAE’s continued efforts saw Paret-Peintre jump ahead as the last man standing.

The diminutive Frenchman worked away well solo, perhaps showing what could have been had the break not been kept so close throughout the stage. Paret-Peintre ran out of steam with 4.3km to go as Majka began the final leadout for the Slovenian.

Pogačar’s stranglehold on the Maglia Rosa will continue into stage 9.

With the climb’s regular gradient not offering any more steep pinches to explode on in the finale, Pogačar bided his time in the Majka’s wheel but those behind sensed an opportunity. Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain Victorious) tried first to get away but there was quickly a pink figure right behind him.

Anyone who tried to attack in the final 2km was given the same treatment, allowing Majka to come back and provide a final leadout before Pogačar proved just why UAE had put in such a big shift to keep things together, even able to celebrate over the line in the sprint.

Tomorrow’s 9th stage of the Giro d’Italia takes the riders from Avezzano to Naples. The 214 kilometres route is predominantly flat, although a number of short hills in the last 30 kilometres throw down a challenge to pure sprinters.

The riders set off from Avezzano, located at 727 metres above sea level in the Appenines. The route goes predominantly downhill at shallow gradients in the first 75 kilometres before it flattens out. The riders then race parallel to the Tyrrhenian coast for tens of kilometres in southerly direction.

They are nearing the Campi Flegrei – or, Phlegraean Fields – to the west of Naples in the last 40 kilometres. The area of the caldera consists of 24 craters and volcanic edifices – most of them lie under the Gulf of Naples -, and the riders will feel it when they take on the Monte de Procida (3.7 kilometres at 3.1%), the climb to Lucino (1.1 kilometres at 6.7%), the Solfatara de Pozzuoli (2 kilometres at 4.9%) and, finally, the ascent to the affluent residential quarter Posillipo (3.2 kilometres at 4.4%).

It’s 7 kilometres from Posillipo to the finish line in front of Mappatella Beach – half of which goes downhill and the other half is flat.

Naples hosts a stage finish for the third time in a row. Last year, Mads Pedersen outsprinted Jonathan Milan and Pascal Ackermann, while Thomas De Gendt won from the breakaway in 2022. All in all, it will be the 45th time that a Giro stage ends in Naples.

The second and third intermediate sprint comes with 3, 2 and 1 seconds, while the first three riders on the line gain 10, 6 and 4 seconds.

Stage 8 result:

1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 4:02:16
2. Dani Martínez (Col) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Ben O’Connor (Aus) Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale, both at same time
4. Antonio Tiberi (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, +2s
5. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
6. Einer Rubio (Col) Movistar
7. Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bel) Visma-Lease a Bike, all at same time
8. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers, +11s
9. Michael Storer (Aus) Tudor Pro Cycling, +13s
10. Alex Baudin (Fra) Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale, +21s

General Classification:

1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 28:14:42
2. Daniel Felipe Martínez (Col) Bora-Hansgrohe, +2:40
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, +2-58
4. Ben O’Connor (Aus) Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale, +3-39
5. Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bel) Visma-Lease a Bike, +4-02
6. Antonio Tiberi (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, +4-23
7. Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan, +5-15
8. Einer Rubio (Col) Movistar, +5-28
9. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers, +5-30
10. Jan Hirt (Cze) Soudal Quick-Step, +5-53


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