Giro d'Italia stage 7 preview: 'Tadej Pogačar is unbeatable tomorrow' says Matt White

What can we expect from the Giro's first time trial? We hear from Geraint Thomas, Mikkel Bjerg, Tobias Foss and Matt White

Clock20:12, Thursday 9th May 2024
Race leader Tadej Pogačar will be in a pink and granata skinsuit for stage 7's time trial

© Getty Images

Race leader Tadej Pogačar will be in a pink and granata skinsuit for stage 7's time trial

This year’s Giro d’Italia bucks the modern trend in Grand Tours of diminishing opportunities for the time trial specialists. Packing some 71.8km against the clock over the course of two individual time trials, the race has the highest number of time trialling kilometres seen at a Grand Tour since the 2015 Giro d’Italia.

It does, however, adhere to the modern fascination with ending individual time trials at the top of a climb, with stage 7 of this year’s race having a parcours not too dissimilar to last year’s stage 20 or the infamous penultimate-day time trial at the 2020 Tour de France.

Flat for the first 34.2km, Friday’s time trial then hits a 6.4km-long climb that will be sure to test the specialists in the discipline and offer the peloton’s best climbers an opportunity to place well.

The 40.6km time trial will be important not only for those looking to win the stage, but also for all the riders with general classification ambitions. Tadej Pogačar of UAE Team Emirates currently holds a firm grip on the maglia rosa having won the stage 2 summit finish, but he looks set to be most-closely challenged by Ineos GrenadiersGeraint Thomas, who offered his thoughts to a small group of reporters after stage 6.

“It’s always a funny one isn’t it getting on a TT bike now, but we’ll see. I will give it everything I’ve got, it’s a tough one, you have got to pace it well with the hard final,” he said, with his teammate Filippo Ganna tipped as a pre-race favourite for the stage win.

Much like the other discipline specialists, however, Ganna will have to contend with the difficulty of the final few kilometres should he wish to pick up a seventh career Giro d’Italia stage victory.

In total, the 6.4km category 4 climb to Perugia averages 4.1% and has its trickiest slopes located in the first 1.3km of the ascent. Those ramp up at an average gradient of 11.2% and will prove a rude awakening to all riders after a lightning-fast first 34km of riding. Given the difficulty of the course, the jury is out on whether the stage will be won by a pure specialist or a strong climber.

In the days leading up to Friday’s time trial, we have spoken to some of the teams involved to gather their predictions for the race.

Read more: Tadej Pogačar cleared to use multi-coloured skinsuit at the Giro d’Italia

Pogačar tipped as unbeatable but Mikkel Bjerg fancies his chances

Take one look at the start list for this year’s Giro and a few big names will come to mind when assessing the strongest time trial specialists. As a two-time former world time trial champion, Ganna naturally heads up that list, but special mentions must also go to Ineos Grenadiers’ Tobias Foss, a former world champion in his own right, and the UAE Team Emirates rouleur Mikkel Bjerg, who claimed his first elite TT victory in last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné.

Foss came into the Giro off the back of a stage win at the Tour of the Alps, but his hopes for Friday have been dampened by a pair of crashes that have both left the Norwegian beat up on the right-hand side of his body.

“I am a little curious how the body is going to be. If I have the energy then we will go for it, but if not then I will have to take it easy. We are here for Geraint and the GC and he is flying so that is the main goal,” the 26-year-old told GCN on Thursday morning, admitting that his previous night’s sleep had been average at best after his latest tumble.

“I think for a guy like Pippo in his shape, he will fly anyway,” Foss added when assessing the tough climb. “But I think for sure it can also be a really good TT for Geraint.”

Where Foss’ expectations have been tempered by an ill-fated opening week, those of Bjerg have only improved as the race has gone on. The Dane has been a vital teammate for Pogačar through the opening stages and is beginning to find his climbing legs after an impressive Spring Classics campaign.

“I think it’s a really hard climb in the finish, but I will try. If it doesn’t make sense then I will see, but I think for the moment I have good legs so I am targeting it,” he told GCN, pointing to the heads up that he has received from his team leader ahead of the stage.

“I think I have a really good chance, definitely, if I have good legs and I go well. Hopefully it can be a really good result. I think Tadej has reconned it and he said that the kick is really hard, but I guess that we will see.”

Bjerg will be a man to watch, then, but in truth, it is his teammate who will begin Friday’s stage as the biggest challenger to Ganna’s ambitions. Over a flat time trial, it is the Italian who would have the edge, but with the inclusion of the climb to Perugia, Jayco AlUla’s director of high performance and racing, Matt White, could see no alternative outcome than a Pogačar victory on stage 7.

“No,” was White’s succinct answer when asked by GCN if the time trial specialists have a shot at stage victory on Friday.

“I think Pogačar is unbeatable tomorrow. I think it’s too much climbing for Ganna, I think Ganna will probably be the fastest one out [of the blocks] but the approach to the old city is pretty tough and a guy of his size is at a disadvantage. I think Pogačar can get the job done tomorrow.”

It is hard to argue with White’s analysis. The Slovenian is clearly in a rich vein of form - even if some had expected the two-time Tour de France winner to have a bigger advantage in pink heading into Friday’s stage - and has won both flat and uphill time trials in the past. The likes of Thomas, Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and Cian Uijtdebroeks (Visma-Lease a Bike) will be happy to limit their losses to the race leader.

With that being said, Ganna cannot be underestimated. The 27-year-old has produced a number of high-calibre performances over the past week, not least of which his ride to stay with Pogačar’s rivals over the final climb on stage 1 and his solo attack that almost won him the day’s honours on stage 4. With his desire to show off the Italian national champion’s kit in the strongest possible fashion, don’t be surprised to see Ganna push Pogačar all the way on Friday afternoon.

For everything you need to know about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, from the history of the race to this year's route and start list, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

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