20 Days of the Maglia Rosa

By: Zach Nehr

When Tadej Pogačar lined up for his first Giro d’Italia three weeks ago, few would have predicted what we were about to witness. From Torino to Rome, Pogačar showed his strength with long-range attacks, last-second leadouts, high-altitude finishes, and 30 km time trials. 

Over 21 stages, from the coast to the mountains and the snow to the sun, Pogačar never lost time to his GC rivals. Some days, he gained seconds. On other days, he gained minutes. It was a performance for the history books. Here’s a look at how it happened.

Week 1 – Torino to Prati di Tivo

It only took one stage for Pogačar to stamp his authority on the rest of the GC contenders. The 25-year-old attacked on the final climb of the day but was upset in the sprint by Jhonatan Narváez. Nevertheless, Pogačar gained 10 seconds + 4 bonus seconds at the finish to take an early lead over the serious GC riders. 

On Stage 2, Pogačar wouldn’t be denied this time and rode all the contenders off his wheel to solo for the stage win. At the end of the day, he again gained time and bonus seconds over his GC rivals. After two stages of 21, his lead was already 45 seconds. 

Attacks came and went over the next few stages, but there wasn’t major GC action until the time trial on Stage 7. Most doubted Pogačar’s ability to win the stage given the presence of Two-Time Time Trial Champion Filippo Ganna, but Pogačar would silence those doubters.


Over 40.6 kilometers, Pogačar would put more than a minute into his GC rivals and win the stage ahead of Ganna. It was a massive swing in the momentum of the race because it showed that Pogačar was on top form. That trend continued the following day on Prati di Tivo, the first serious summit finish of the Giro. 

UAE Team Emirates patrolled the front of the peloton to give Pogačar a shot at the stage win. Countless breakaway attempts were made, but they didn’t stand a chance of making it to the finish. The team rode ENVE’s SES 4.5 wheels throughout the Giro d’Italia, a race complete with variable weather, high-altitude finishes, and even some gravel. 

With 200 meters to go on Prati di Tivo, Pogačar unleashed a monstrous sprint to not only win the stage but also put a gap on his GC rivals. After one week of the Giro, Pogačar’s lead was already minutes.

GC Standings After Stage 8:

1st: Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) 7:08:29

2nd: Daniel Martínez (BORA - hansgrohe) +2:40

3rd: Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) +2:58

Week 2 – The Coast in Naples to 2,300 Meters in Livigno

After the hectic start to the Giro, it would take nearly a week for Pogačar to add another dent to the GC. The Stage 14 time trial was much flatter than Stage 7’s TT, which meant that Pogačar only gained 45 seconds on his closest GC rivals. Pogačar averaged 52.7 kph over 31.2km, which was good enough for second on the stage behind Filippo Ganna.

While the time trial extended the existing gaps, it was the following stage that weighed on everyones’ minds. The Queen stage of the Giro traveled 222 km from Manerba del Garda to Livigno, finishing atop the Mottolino after more than 5,700 meters (more than 18,000 feet!) of climbing. It was a high-altitude finish at the end of a very long day; and if Pogačar has shown any weakness in the past few years, it has been on stages designed like this. 

Pogačar said that the team had been thinking about this stage since December, and we all knew what that meant. UAE Team Emirates was planning an all-out attack. It didn’t matter that Pogačar was already minutes ahead. They wanted to race as hard as they could from start to finish and push Pogačar to the limit to see what he was truly capable of. 

The bikes were washed, the bottles were filled, and the nutrition was packed. Five hours later, UAE Team Emirates arrived at the bottom of the final climb with Pogačar in tow. He stepped off with 15 km to go, immediately destroying the GC group and riding out of sight. Ten kilometers later, Pogačar passed Nairo Quintana and continued pushing for the stage win. In short, it was Pogačar’s best-ever performance at high altitude. There is nothing in Pogačar’s history that compares to that effort, and it showed on the results sheet. The nearest GC rival was two minutes and 50 seconds behind him.

GC Standings After Stage 15:

1st: Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) 7:08:29

2nd: Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) +6:41

3rd: Daniel Martínez (BORA - hansgrohe) +6:56


Week 3 – Freezing Conditions on Monte Pana to the Shining Sun on Monte Grappa

Following the rest day in Livigno, you could’ve forgiven Pogačar for taking it easy on Stage 16 to Monte Pana. But the opposite was true as Pogačar attacked on the steep slopes of the final climb. He went on to win his fifth stage of the Giro ahead of Giulio Pellizzari and Martínez, extending his GC lead to over seven minutes with five stages to go. 

A rarity in this Giro, the day’s breakaway survived Pogačar’s charge to win Stage 17—Georg Steinhauser of EF Education - EasyPost was the only rider who held off Pogačar who attacked to gain more time and bonus seconds on the GC group. The UAE Team Emirates leader had nearly an eight-minute lead heading into Stage 20, featuring the epic double-ascent on Monte Grappa.  

Monte Grappa (18.2km at 8.1%) is a climb feared by many, and rightfully so. The steep ascent is relentless, with only one section of respite during the hour-long climb. Monte Grappa is feared on any given day, but even more so in the third week of the Giro d’Italia. Fatigue was at an all-time high, but that didn’t stop Pogačar from attacking with nearly 40 km to go in the penultimate stage of the Giro.

Pogačar rode past hundreds of Slovenian flags on the climb to Monte Grappa; he even had time to hand a bidon to a young fan. Like so many other climbs in this Giro, Pogačar set the record ascent, going a minute faster than the previous record which came during an individual time trial in 2014. 


Pogačar – Monte Grappa

Time: 51:46

Estimated VAM: ~1,700 Vm/h

It was an epic and memorable celebration of the pink jersey riding into Grappa on the shoulders of Tadej Pogačar. The Slovenian won his sixth stage by two minutes and extended his GC lead to nearly 10 minutes with only the procession in Rome to go. UAE Team Emirates and Pogačar rode arm-in-arm across the finish line in Rome, a symbol of their dominance over three weeks in Italy. 

It’s hard to believe this was Tadej Pogačar’s first attempt at the Giro d’Italia. Now, three weeks later, he has won six Giro stages, the Giro mountains jersey, and the maglia rosa. The celebrations are well-deserved, but it won’t be long before Pogačar heads to an altitude camp ahead of the Tour de France. In less than 35 days, Pogačar will attempt to reclaim the yellow jersey and complete the first Giro-Tour double to be achieved in over 25 years.

Final GC Standings at the 2024 Giro d’Italia:

1st: Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) 7:08:29

2nd: Daniel Martínez (BORA - hansgrohe) +9:56

3rd: Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) +10:24

View Pogačar’s Strava