The road to Rome: what to expect from the final week of the Giro d'Italia 2024

Tadej Pogačar has undoubtedly been the main man at the 2024 Giro d'Italia, but the third week hold opportunities for a variety of riders to seek glory before Rome

As the peloton spends today’s rest day recuperating from another hard week’s racing at the Giro d’Italia, pretty much every rider who isn’t Tadej Pogačar will be looking ahead to the final week and wondering: how are we supposed to achieve anything at this race, so long as the Slovenian continues riding like this?

This Giro has been the Pogopalypse, a total display of domination from one rider who has pushed all the other riders to the margins as mere sideshows in an exception of his brilliance. Not only has he turned the race for the pink jersey into a procession, already building a surely insurmountable lead of 6:41 that’s likely to grow even bigger, he’s also chased stage wins with insatiable hunger, hunting down breakaways and constantly attacking to pick up four already. He even leads the mountains classification, and by such a margin that it’ll be difficult for anyone to overcome.

So what will all of the other strongest riders at the race need to do during the final week to make this a successful Grand Tour for them? For Geraint Thomas, the situation is especially difficult. He’s talked from the start of the race about wanting to win, and not just settle for runner-up behind the Slovenian; after all, would second place provide much satisfaction given that was where he finished last year? But the reality of the situation means that that is now surely the best he can hope to finish, barring some disaster happening to Pogačar. Perhaps chasing stage wins while holding onto his second place would be an alternative? This has been a successful ploy for Ineos Grenadiers in general, with their riders Jhonatan Narváez and Filippo Ganna the only men so far to have forced Pogačar to settle for podium spot while they take the stage glory, on the opening day and the second time trial respectively. But here Thomas himself is in a bind, as he won’t be allowed up the road in a breakaway, and appears unlikely to either drop Pogačar or beat him in a sprint.

If anybody other than Pogačar is going to win some stages in the mountains this week, it will likely be a result from getting into an early break that succeeds. Therefore it’s the pure climbers who are further down GC, especially those who lose their time in the time trials, who may sniff an opportunity. There are several such riders currently ranked between seventh and 12th, who could be afforded more freedom to attack than riders that high on GC are usually, given that they are all over 10 minutes down on the pink jersey. In the case of Romain Bardet (seventh at 10:49), Filippo Zana (eighth at 11:11), Lorenzo Fortunato (11th at 14:14) and Michael Storer (12th at 16:28), trying this approach may be especially important as their respective Dsm-Firmenich PostNL, Jayco-Alula, Astana and Tudor teams are all without stage wins so far; Einer Rubio (ninth at 12:13) and Jan Hirt (10th at 13:11) at least have the security of their Movistar and Soudal–Quick-Step teams already having managed one.

For those higher on the GC, securing as high a finish as possible will be the priority. Whereas Thomas already has multiple Grand Tour podium finishes to his name, for Dani Martínez (Bora-Hansgrohe) such a result would be a first, and therefore a worthy end in its own right even if he is nowhere near Pogačar nor supplements it with a stage win. The Colombian is the kind of rider you sense needs a result like this on his palmarès, having done so well in week-long stage races without replicating that at Grand Tours, and will therefore be desperate to prove he can hold his own deep into the final week and secure a podium finish. Right now he’s locked in a very close contest with Thomas, trailing him by only 15 seconds, so even second place is still very much on the cards.

Doing so will be far from simple, however, and behind Martínez on GC is a cluster of riders hoping to overthrow him from the podium spot he currently holds. Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) is his most threatening challenger, poised in fourth place only 47 seconds behind, and has been looking in very good shape. He too has never managed a Grand Tour podium finish, despite having come close at the 2021 Tour de France, where he was fourth, and so will likely make doing so here his main aim for the rest of the Giro. Though he was dropped by Martínez and Thomas towards the summit at Livigno yesterday, he still looks the match of both in the mountains — it could be a very close-fought contest between them in the final week.

One contrast Pogačar certainly can’t win is the young riders’ classification, now that he has turned 25 years old, so the path is clear for Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain-Victorious) and Thymen Arensman (Ineos Grenadiers) to duke it out. Tiberi had been in pole position, but looks much more vulnerable after being dropped yesterday, which allowed Arensman to move to just 19 seconds from him. All will now depend on how these relatively inexperienced riders will cope deep into the third week, and history suggests Arensman is well-equipped to do so, given how he’s grown into this race, and has in the past improved the deeper into a race he gets. And don’t rule a podium finish on GC out for either just yet: both are still within three minutes of Martínez, and the Giro often undergoes big changes during its massive final week mountains.

Aside from these GC riders, there will be a host of climbers trying their luck in the breaks of the mountain stages, and puncheurs on the intermediate, hilly stage on Friday, especially from the many teams without a win so far: the likes of EF Education-EasyPost and Alpecin-Deceuninck have been trying especially hard to no avail so far, so we can expect them to continue in that vein.

And finally, there will be at least one and probably two more stages up for grabs among the one category of stage that Pogačar can’t compete in: the bunch sprints. These sprinters’ nemesis has been Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) rather than the Slovenian, and he’s looked pretty untouchable of late as the only other rider in the race to have registered more than one stage win. He’ll want to survive the mountains and secure the maglia ciclamino, and could also turn his already big haul of three stage wins into a massive one. The Giro d’Italia might have been the Tadej Pogačar show up until now, but there are chances for both him, and many other riders, to steal the limelight this week.

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