The greatest showman: Tadej Pogačar adds another dazzling performance to his growing legacy

The Slovenian is now out of sight of his rivals in the Giro d'Italia GC, just as he was on the queen stage to Livigno

Act 74 of the Tadej Pogačar Show. Up high in the Italian Alps, at altitudes he supposedly struggles on, the movie of Cycling’s Dominator entered the stage with 14km to go. He had been visible throughout, tucked away behind the minor actors but not out of sight, biding his time to make his showstopping, grandstand entrance.

His barnstorming entry to the front of the rostrum was exactly as predicted: viewers, both at home and on the mountain roads, have seen variations of this same film many times before, on 73 previous occasions to be exact. But still it leaves even the most accustomed utterly speechless.

Jumping out of the wheels of a teammate, this time Rafał Majka, as it so often is, he accelerated away from the men who are said to be his rivals in an apparent race for pink. Within a kilometre, he was 30 seconds clear of them; 12km later, he was three minutes away in the distance, another blockbuster show wrapped up, perhaps the best yet.

He made his debut in 2019 as a young boy, first emerging as the sport’s new Hollywood actor at the Vuelta a España, winning three stages and finishing third, aged just 19. Then he wrote the best script in modern Tour de France history by snatching victory away from his compatriot, Primož Roglič, the man he wasn’t meant to upstage just yet.

In 2021 he blew away his rivals in the first week of the Tour, crushed them into submission in the Alps on day eight, finishing more than three minutes clear of the other yellow jersey dreamers. In 2022 the Tour wasn’t won, but 16 other races were, and in 2023 he claimed a near-perfect year, eating up the Flanderian cobbles and cruising up the climbs of whichever European mountain range he found himself in.

Then came 2024 and a declaration that he wanted to be the greatest cyclist ever to have ridden a bike. Eddy Merckx, I’m coming for you. So far he’s raced 25 days, and he’s won 11 times. But no extravaganza has brought the show down quite like this month’s Giro d’Italia.

Already he has four stage wins out of a possible 15, and in conquering his fourth, riding high at the mountain resort of Livigno and up a road that until a few days ago was a ski slope, he battered his fellow competitors, crossing the line a whole two minutes and 50 seconds ahead of the riders who currently share the other podium places with him. At the race’s second and final rest day, he has a lead of 6:41 to Geraint Thomas. In other words, he’s several kilometres in front, a whole different village away from the rest.

Usually writers would precede such a time gap with words like “unfathomable” and “astonishing”, but those descriptions are no longer justified or appropriate because this is what the man from a sleepy Slovenian village just does. This is his thing. It’s what he’s been doing for five-and-a-half seasons: he suffocates and suppresses his rivals, and even though he renders the competition a one-man affair, he still creates a spectacle.

His lead in the Giro is so enormous that he can now take his foot off the accelerator and relax in the final week, use the remaining six stages as a de-facto training camp for the Tour de France which comes next, the second act in his Giro-Tour movie. But he won’t do that. We know he won’t. He’ll attack again, and almost certainly win in the Dolomites. Because that’s the Tadej Pogačar way. He is a sporting giant, at 25 he’s already achieved sporting immortality, and he’s on the path to becoming cycling’s greatest ever, forever adding to a legacy that is getting richer and more monumental each and every day. Stage 15 of the 2024 Giro d’Italia, the 74th act of the Tadej Pogačar Show, was perhaps the greatest yet.

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