Giro d’Italia: Tadej Pogačar avoids crash in sprint but defends riding in front

Maglia rosa in the midst of bunch sprint again, and almost caught in late incident

Clock16:27, Wednesday 15th May 2024
Pink jersey Tadej Pogačar is often visible in the front, even in bunch finishes

© Getty Images

Pink jersey Tadej Pogačar is often visible in the front, even in bunch finishes

Despite being the overall race leader, it’s become a common occurrence to see Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) in amongst the action on bunch sprint days at this Giro d’Italia, both staying out of trouble and helping his team’s sprinter, Sebastián Molano.

Stage 11’s fast kick into Francavilla al Mare was no different, with Pogačar floating around the front of the bunch for much longer than his GC rivals, but this time it almost proved costly as a crash involving Fabio Jakobsen, Tobias Lund Andresen (both dsm-firmenich PostNL) and Jenthe Biermans (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) forced the maglia rosa to swerve out the way in the final few hundred metres.

Though nothing came of it, the crash called into question Pogačar’s high-risk strategy, but the Slovenian insisted that his plan was about staying safe.

“Maybe it looks like it,” he explained after stage 11 when asked if he thought he stayed up front for too long in the sprint.

“Today there was a crash just in front of me, but more or less I always stay like this, in a bubble, a few metres around me, I always check what’s going on, I always stay not directly on the wheels, not touching anybody.

“You never know, it can happen in the back, in the front. It’s a bit tricky,” he continued. “I always have this philosophy, you need to stay safe in this small air bubble that you create and try to not make mistakes.”

Read more: Giro d'Italia stage 11: Jonathan Milan powers to victory ahead of Tim Merlier

In recent years, it’s become the norm for GC teams to line out in the finale of sprint stages, keeping their leaders out of trouble until the all-important 3km-to-go mark, from which point riders won’t lose time if involved in a crash or mechanical incident.

Pogačar, however, has been taking it further, and actively getting involved with the lead-out, closing the gap to Jhonatan Narváez on stage 9, and to a lesser extent on stage 11.

Read more: Pink jersey, lead-out man: Tadej Pogačar gives back at Giro d'Italia

“Today I knew with the headwind it’s a bit more difficult for me to help Seba [Molano] and Rui [Oliveira], but I tried just to cover them a little bit,” he said. “They cover me, I cover them, until the final 2-3 km but then I didn’t have the legs to go in the headwind in front so it’s up to the big guys in the final kilometre on a finish like this.”

On a day when Pogačar’s teammate Felix Großschartner was involved in a crash, and the sprint finish didn’t particularly suit his abilities, questions will still rumble on about his approach to always being in the action, but ultimately the maglia rosa survives another day without incident in this Giro.

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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