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It’s A Pogačar Giro-Tour Double Emergency Post!

Counting down ten fresh takes on the big news

117th Il Lombardia 2023 Photo by Sara Cavallini/Getty Images

Ten thoughts about Tadej Pogačar riding the Giro d’Italia, in approximate descending order of importance...

10. What does the decision do for him in Belgium? Does it make him more or less popular? Some important factors to consider: he stepped on the kerstperiode cyclocross news cycle for a day or three, But! he managed to do so just as the grownups were arriving and getting warmed up. A week from now, Pogi stepping on the Wout-Matti-Pidders All Monsters Attack battle raging in Gavere and Zonhoven would have been unacceptable. But today the big headline is “Crossmullets.” I wish I were kidding.

9. I guess there is some sort of debate to be had about the wisdom of Pogačar riding the Giro, but can we all agree that everyone talking about the Giro d’Italia in mid-December is unreservedly a good thing?

106th Giro d’Italia 2023 - Stage 19 Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

8. Who is even riding the Giro this year? I’ll tell you who... a bunch of schmucks! OK, not really. It will actually be a bunch of unfathomably magnificent young athletes doing things I can only dream of. Every spring. While riding the trainer and reciting Buzzati to nobody in particular. But anyway his countryman Roglič, the defending winner, won’t be there since he absconded to BORA for the specific reason of not having to defend his maglia rosa. Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates seem like his stiffest competition, two fine veteran cavaliere who, in 2024, will not be in Pogi’s class.

7. Can you blame Pogačar for wanting to ride this year’s Giro? It is a rather delicious route, starting up north in Torino before bumping its way down the old Apennine provinces to Napoli, then east up to a rather heaping helping of Dolomites before jetting back to a Roman Finale. I will have much more to say about this at the appropriate time, and don’t even try to stop me, but for now I will simply point out that Tadej f’n Pogacar attacking over the final two mountain stages a short drive from the Slovenian border will be a pulsating, gratifying bit of overdue fan service. Riders might be advised to carry ear plugs.


6. Back to Belgium... is he purposely avoiding Remco Evenepoel? Lots of people have been mentioned as Pogačar’s natural rival, such as Roglič (too old), Vingegaard (eehhh... for now), Van Aert or van der Poel or just cobblestones in general. But his truest rival might end up being Evenepoel. To be clear, they are not on the same level in grand tours at the moment and might never be. They are most definitely Ardennes rivals, and will be facing off at Worlds and the Olympics for a while, given that Pogi is just 25 and Rem about to hit 24 next month. That’s the real reason — they are both just entering their prime years. We don’t even know who they are yet! Anyway, Pogi has no big reason to avoid the subject of competing against Evenepoel in a three week race, but he might not want the headache just yet. [And yes, they will both be at the Tour. But this lowers the pitch a little?] [Actually no it doesn’t.]

5. What About Wout? The Visma-Rent a Bike star has the highest approval rating in North America for any living Belgian this side of Jean-Claude Van Damme, and probably a few other parts of the world would say the same. Pogi versus Wout is a battle that could get incredibly spicy and fun, until they hit the final week mega-stages where their body types will inevitably force them to part ways. And this isn’t like “who would win in a fight, a gorilla or a lion?” It’s more like two weeks of dueling gorillas, before one of them reveals that he’s also a lion.

109th Tour de France 2022 - Stage 18 Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

4. “Oh but it’s too hard, it can’t be done!” Is it? Didn’t the Vuelta a España winner just pull that one off after riding the Giro AND the Tour? Some people think we expect too much from our heroes. I say, we don’t expect enough.

3. Does Pogi think he can beat Vingegaard? I mean, he can — he can win any race he enters, more or less. But maybe he’s just not willing to go all in for the Tour like Vingo does. Why? BECAUSE IT’S BORING. Training all of your efforts toward a single goal, that you already achieved twice... does that sound like a fun career? “Good Old Predictable Tadej, he just does the same thing every year.” Nobody thinks of him this way, including apparently himself.

TOUR DE FRANCE-TDF-ROCHE Photo credit should read PASCAL PAVANI/AFP via Getty Images

2. I’ve been a bit negative to this point, so let’s go positive — what if he actually pulls off the Double?! Right now there are a hundred news stories out about the elusive Double: who managed it (some dopers, some legends, Stephen Roche), who else tried it (Contador gave it a real go in 2011), and why it’s so damn hard (bodies need rest). Every year riders double up and the takeaway is that it’s pretty much impossible to pull off. [Tobias Fünke voice] But it could work for Pogi!

1. Isn’t this really about the Olympics, which take place like 10 days or so after the end of the Tour? It would be extremely hard to win the Tour, regroup, and put in a gold medal performance, especially as the maillot jaune goes on his usual victory lap (or maybe that gets skipped this time). What could work, though, is to go to the Giro, get your prize there, enter the Tour, ride it at your own pace if there isn’t a realistic chance to win, and come out of the Tour (possibly before Paris) primed for ... well, Paris. For a guy with a couple Tours on his resume already, and with probably two or three good shots at the quadrennial Olympics, I would not be at all surprised if this sounded like a great way to spend his summer. Oh, and his main rival is not anyone named before. It’s Mathieu van der Poel.

107th Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres 2023 - Men’s Elite Photo by Mark Van Hecke - Pool/Getty Images