Giro d’Italia stage 8 preview: Does Tadej Pogačar’s lead make a breakaway win inevitable?

The Slovenian might be in complete control but the top-ten battle still has plenty of life as riders head for the mountains

Clock00:19, Saturday 11th May 2024
Tadej Pogačar has a strong lead in the GC at the Giro d'Italia

© Getty Images

Tadej Pogačar has a strong lead in the GC at the Giro d'Italia

In what seemed like one fell swoop, Tadej Pogačar appears to have all but won the 2024 Giro d’Italia with an all-conquering individual time trial, that whilst only besting Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) by 17 seconds, had the rest of his GC rivals on the ropes as he surged to victory on stage 7.

It was a performance that might have threatened to dampen the spirits after a first week of racing that had promised so much, but in truth, Pogačar’s dominance could deliver us a more entertaining stage on Saturday than had he stayed within touching distance of his rivals.

Gone are any expectations that might have fallen on the teams of Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Dani Martínez (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Cian Uijtdebroeks (Visma-Lease a Bike) to spend stage 8 helping to set the pace at the front of the peloton, only to fall victims to another inevitable, soul-crushing attack from Pogačar.

Instead, the pressure will be firmly on UAE Team Emirates’ shoulders in the peloton and with that, the breakaway is almost certain to take the stage honours on Saturday as the Giro embarks on 152km between Spoleto and the summit finish at Prati di Tivo.

With the Emirati squad unlikely to be keen on keeping the breakaway in check early doors, the opportunity for a win on a mountaintop finish will encourage all and sundry to get involved with the formation of the day’s early break.

Heading uphill immediately from the gun, stage 8 of the Giro will task the riders with a 6km uncategorised climb that averages 4.5%. Coming so early into the day, this section of the race perfectly suits the establishment of a handsome breakaway and over the two subsequent climbs before the Prati di Tivo mountain, we should see the gap to the peloton balloon to an unassailable margin in advance of the final climb.

The likes of Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco AlUla) and Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché-Wanty) will no doubt all be involved - as all three have been already in this Giro - whilst the extensive time deficits carried by some pre-race GC favourites could see them chance their arm at infiltrating the day’s move.

Romain Bardet (dsm-firmenich PostNL), Juan Pedro López (Lidl-Trek) and Einer Rubio (Movistar) lost so much time in Friday’s stage that they are unlikely to be marked by UAE Team Emirates. Those riders in question will see the Prati di Tivo as a chance to use their climbing strengths to their advantage and as an opportunity to begin what they hope is a gradual ascendency up the overall standings.

With Ineos Grenadiers putting all expectations on UAE Team Emirates as the winners-in-waiting, there is likely no outfit that is both strong enough and committed enough to help Pogačar’s team keep the time gap at a manageable level. That is not to mention that UAE Team Emirates may not even want to chase down the breakaway themselves and make the day difficult for their opponents, such is the Slovenian’s control in the lead of the race.

Read more: 'Giro d'Italia is UAE Team Emirates' race to lose' say Ineos Grenadiers after Pogačar demolition

GC battle will still be contested, if not for the maglia rosa

But for all the talk of a damp squib when it comes to the race for pink, there are still important positions on the Giro’s podium to be contested between here and Rome.

After a taste of things to come with the stage 2 summit finish to Oropa, excitement is beginning to build within the peloton for the first true mountain test on Saturday, as Bora-Hansgrohe sports director Bernie Eisel referred to it.

“I think Oropa was a special one because to have a mountaintop finish on day two is a shock to the system for every GC rider. But now when we look to Prati di Tito, it is the first big showdown. Every Grand Tour, every first mountaintop finish they put the cards on the table and we have to be ready to be there to put our cards on the table,” he said, with an eye on the ambitions of his team’s leader Dani Martínez.

The Colombian looks set to be a key protagonist in the mountain stages to come, having ridden the Perugia climb in the stage 7 time trial faster than all riders not named Tadej Pogačar, and having previously finished second on the second-day mountaintop finish. Martínez’s performances have not surprised Eisel, but have begun to shift the team’s initial ambitions on the top five towards a podium finish come the end of the race.

With less than two minutes separating the third-placed Geraint Thomas from Lorenzo Fortunato (Astan Qazaqstan) in 10th overall, it is all still to play for behind Pogačar and despite his disappointment at having lost the white jersey to Luke Plapp (Jayco AlUla) on stage 7, Visma-Lease a Bike’s Cian Uijtdebroeks remains another key rider to watch as the Giro moves towards the mountains.

“I think that for sure it is a day that suits him,” Uijtdebroeks’ sports director Marc Reef told GCN.

“What we saw from the past with him, the longer it is and the harder it is, the better it is for him. So a day like tomorrow suits him more than the days we have behind us.”

In terms of attrition, stage 8 will certainly take more out of the riders than the stage 2 summit finish did, as noted by Thomas in a discussion with GCN.

“I haven’t reconned it but I think I’ve done it before,” he said of the 14.6km category 1 climb. “It’s a lot more regular than stage 2, it’s not so steep and flat, steep and flat, it’s a similar gradient most of the way. It’s long, solid and I’m sure it’s going to cause some gaps.”

Time gaps will be highly sought after for the likes of Thomas, who has moved down to third overall after Friday’s time trial, and Uijtdebroeks, who has lost the white jersey and now sits seventh overall. Whilst the breakaway looks destined to sweep up the stage honours in the Appenine mountains, there should be no shortage of action from the GC pack behind.

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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