Now for the Tour? Why the smart money is on Tadej Pogačar completing a historic double

A sublime show of dominance in the Giro bodes well for the Slovenian's aim a of second Grand Tour win in July

The Giro-Tour double, a feat rarely achieved and not at all since 1998, is officially on. Part one of cycling’s hardest and most iconic challenge has been fulfilled: Tadej Pogačar has convincingly won the 2024 Giro d’Italia by nine minutes and 56 seconds – the largest winning margin in any of the three Grand Tours since Vittorio Adorni won the 1965 Giro by 11:26. The Slovenian has destroyed the field since day one, but he knows this only acts as the precursor to what comes next.

Because winning the Giro, as difficult and as prestigious as it is, does not equate to winning the Tour de France. Pogačar himself knows that – he explicitly said so during the second rest day, declaring that the “best victory a rider can have is to win the Tour”. And the UAE Team Emirates rider is on the backfoot in the French Grand Tour: after he won his second yellow jersey in 2021, most riders and pundits predicted that he would easily reach five maillot jaunes before then adding to his tally, possibly becoming the most successful Tour rider in history.

But as we all know, he has met his match – at least in the Tour – in the form of Jonas Vingegaard who hasn’t just denied him a third and fourth yellow jersey, but outwitted, outmanoeuvred and out-rode him in the past two editions. Pogačar is undoubtedly the best rider in the world, almost definitely this century and very possibly of all time, but he’s not been dominating the Tour as he does in every other race he competes in.

It could be conceived as unfair and slightly ludicrous to state that winning the Giro won’t mean much if he doesn’t follow it up by snatching yellow off Vingegaard this July, but it’s also a representation of the truth. So good is Pogačar, that he is expected to win the Tour; he should be winning the Tour. Simply finishing second or third doesn’t suffice. So how, and will, he do it again this summer?

Thirty-four days separate the final day of the Giro in Rome, won by Tim Merlier ahead of his sprint rival Jonathan Milan, and the Tour’s start in Florence. A handful of Giro victors have tried to win the Tour immediately after, but since Marco Pantani in 1998, all have failed. It is often said that the turnaround is too quick, that there isn’t enough time to properly recuperate and recover, and that the rider chasing history enters the Tour more fatigued, both physically and mentally, than their rivals for yellow.

But there are reasons to suggest that Pogačar will not be affected by the five week gap. First, he doesn’t ever seem to tire; his recovery is remarkable, a point that his coaches and teammates frequently comment upon. George Bennett, his former colleague at UAE, recently said that the 25-year-old was “blessed with ultimate genetics”, and it’s hard to disagree with the Kiwi.

Secondly, Pogačar has had no serious competition in winning the Giro. Dani Martínez is a deserved second place finisher, but he hasn’t put Pogačar under an ounce of pressure on any of the 21 stages. At no moment has Pogačar had to fight, had to deal with a stressful event, or respond to an unforeseen incident. Neither has he been isolated or had to exchange blows on steep ramps with his rivals, and nor has he been ambushed, like he was at the Tour in 2022 by Jumbo-Visma. It’s been plain sailing without a single hiccup or worry. The preconception that he would leave the Giro exhausted and requiring a week off the bike doesn’t apply in this case. The Corsa Rosa has been a glorified and televised training camp for him.

Perhaps the most important point in assessing whether he will regain yellow and be the first male cyclist this century to win the Giro and Tour in the same calendar year is the state of his rivals. Vingegaard, Primož Roglič and Remco Evenepoel were all brought down in the same horror crash at April’s Itzulia Basque Country, and though Roglič and Evenepoel will return to action in a week’s time at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Vingegaard is not expected to race before the Tour. Pogačar’s foe, his nemesis, will not be in the same shape as he was the past two years. It’s unknown if the Dane will attend an altitude camp, but Pogačar definitely will – plus, he’s been racing at altitude for the best part of the last week. It’s most definitely advantage Pogačar.

Should he triumph in the Tour, then attention will then turn to whether he takes on the Vuelta a España in pursuit of an unprecedented Grand Tour Triple in the same season. He’s also repeatedly stated that winning the World Championships in late-September is a big season goal. But that’s for later.

Pogačar has wowed the entire cycling world in the month of May with a spectacular show of supremacy, but he and everyone else knows that it won’t count for much if he doesn’t add the Tour to his season’s palmarès. The smart money is that he’ll become only the seventh male rider to complete the Giro-Tour double in one season, and betting that he’ll win the Triple Crown (Giro, Tour and Worlds) and/or claim the Grand Tour triple isn’t outlandish. 

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