Giro d’Italia: Tadej Pogačar swats away Ineos' crosswind ambush as fan selfies prove more of a challenge

The maglia rosa is sitting pretty at the top of the GC standings ahead of the critical stage 14 time trial

Clock17:33, Friday 17th May 2024
With great power comes great responsibility: Tadej Pogačar is always in demand at the Giro d'Italia

© Getty Images

With great power comes great responsibility: Tadej Pogačar is always in demand at the Giro d'Italia

Another day in pink, another four-question press conference for Giro d’Italia leader Tadej Pogačar after a stage in which fan selfies appeared to irk the Slovenian more than the action on the road following Ineos Grenadiers attempted to split the peloton in the crosswinds and put the maglia rosa on the back foot.

The British team, with Geraint Thomas at the helm, and with Filippo Ganna and Magnus Sheffield at the nucleus of the move, hit the front with 62km to go on the road from Riccione to Cento after a change in wind direction appeared to favour an aggressive approach.

Read more: 10 days in pink, is even Tadej Pogačar bored at the Giro d'Italia?

Their plan worked in so much as the peloton split into several echelons but the only major casualty of their barrage was that eventual stage winner Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) was briefly cut adrift.

When the Ineos brigade eventually paused and scanned the damage caused by their acceleration, they would have been disappointed but perhaps not all that surprised to see Pogačar there – resplendent in pink, on their wheels and with his UAE entourage neatly assembled around him. One could also imagine the maglia rosa raising his eyebrows as if to say ‘Is that all you’ve got?’.

“Now with the pink jersey and with a strong team, it’s much easier to have control of this situation,” a relaxed but slightly weary-looking race leader said in his post-stage press conference.

Read more: The GC standings at the Giro d'Italia

Once upon a time, crosswinds and positioning were seen as weaknesses in Pogačar’s armoury. Conjure your memory back to the thrilling stage of the Tour de France to Lavaur in 2020, and you’ll remember Pogačar losing over a minute to his main rivals in the crosswinds and Wout van Aert triumphing. Pogačar was a mere pup back then but still went on to win the Tour de France in jaw-dropping fashion, but these days he's an even more complete rider, and he has brought a team to the Giro perfectly suited to tricky situations such as crosswinds.

“Thanks to the team I don’t use a lot of stress because they take care of me. For example, four years ago I stressed a lot about this and lost a lot of energy but now I really trust the team. They put in a good effort every day and we race well in the crosswinds,” Pogačar said as he presumably cast his mind back to that day.

With the crosswind chaos navigated without much fuss, Pogačar turned his attention to the most pressing matter of the day, fan selfies, which was topic of discussion after a journalist asked about "too much love" from the fans.

While time and effort are limited commodities for Grand Tour leaders given the inventory of tasks that must be completed both before and after each stage, there’s no doubt that time with the fans does add up during 21-day road trip.

Scanning along the line of team buses at the start on Friday morning, the UAE vehicle was easily the busiest, with dozens of fans watching intently for even the slightest sign of the man in pink. He is a cycling superstar, of that there’s no doubt, and while he has many good qualities, both on and off the bike, humans – no matter their sporting talents – eventually have a line in the sand regarding patience. In that sense, Pogačar is human after all.

“I’m grateful for every fan that I have. Sometimes now with smartphones, it’s too much because everyone wants a selfie,” he said.

“They have phones with timers for their photos and then, five, four… it’s taking time. It used to be just autographs and that was more easy, and I think that it’s more personal if they ask for autographs. For me, giving autographs is always a pleasure but with selfies, it’s sometimes getting too much but that’s part of it and I’m so happy I have fans. As long as they come to the races and don’t do anything crazy or stupid on the road then we can enjoy it,” Pogačar added.

So far in this year’s Giro d’Italia, the race leader has dealt with everything thrown at him, from attacks in the mountains to barbs in the press, and even a crash in the first week. Unruffled, unaffected, he's looked in a class of his own.

His rivals have tried everything, and so far failed, but if the crowds ahead of stage 14 swell even further around the UAE bus we’ll know why as rivals teams send staff undercover to ask for one more selfie from the race leader. He's so far ahead at this point, it's probably worth a try.

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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