Senior news and feature writer at Cycling Weekly, Adam brings his weekly opinion on the goings on at the upper echelons of our sport.
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This off-season just refuses to be quiet, which is probably a good thing for all of us. Last week it was the whole Cian Uijtdebroeks farrago, and this week we have Tadej Pogačar announcing that he will ride the Giro d’Italia.
First off, I should say that Pogačar riding the Giro will be fantastic, for the race, for the sport of cycling, and fans. The more outstanding riders that the event attracts the better, as the level of the whole thing will be raised, and while it might seem likely that the Slovenian will dominate in May, seeing him with a new challenge will be a great watch for all of us.
Pogačar is not just down to ride the Giro, either, with UAE Team Emirates revealing that he is also set to contest the Tour de France, the Olympic Games road race, and the World Championships.
If we assume that the 25-year-old will start these races with the aim of winning them - as he always does - then this will be quite the task. No rider in the 21st century has won the Giro and the Tour in the same season; only two riders ever have won the Giro, Tour and World Championships road race in the same year; no one has ever done that and won at the Olympics too.
If anyone could do it, it would be Pogačar. The serial champion, the man who can win on basically any terrain, who took victory at Paris-Nice, the Tour of Flanders and Il Lombardia in 2023, the two-time Tour de France winner.
In favour of him performing, making history, is the fact that he has won or finished on the podium at the Tour, the Worlds, and the Olympics in his short career to date. In fact, he has finished on the podium at every Grand Tour he has ever taken part in (one Vuelta a España, four Tours).
However, he has never ridden the Giro, let alone in a year in which he will also be targeting the Tour. He has never tackled two Grand Tours in the same season, let alone two five weeks apart, almost immediately followed by the Olympics.
There have already been casualties in the UAE rider’s calendar, with no defence of Flanders on the cards, or the Amstel Gold Race. Pogačar will not target 2024 half-heartedly, though, with Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo scheduled.
He is not a rider who keeps his powder dry, he is a born attacker, one with the talent and legs to make this count. To succeed at the Giro and then Tour will require a different approach, though, one where he rides more conservatively in Italy, something he might find difficult. A slightly easier Giro - one with a less hard final week - might allow Pogačar to build up a lead early and then defend it, but this would require him to change his style. Is that the Pogačar we want to see at the Giro? Is that the Pogačar the race organisers and his sponsors want, too?
On the other hand, perhaps he will go all guns blazing at the Giro, and then tackle the Tour with an open mind, pressure off. There is an argument that for a two-time winner, another yellow jersey is worth less than a first pink one, and this situation creates the opportunity for history, too.
The Giro-Tour double has not only seemed impossible because no one has achieved it since Marco Pantani in 1998, but impossible because no one has really tried it. The Tour has such a gravitational pull that everything revolves around the French race, and a tilt at the Giro is seen as frippery, an add-on. It might be different for Pogačar, whose UAE team is the successor to the Italian Lampre; there are also close ties between the countries of the UAE and Italy.
A stab at history is an exciting thing, and a brave thing too. We can almost guarantee that with Pogačar embarking on it, there will be fun along the way too. Onto 2024.
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