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

We rarely see the maglia rosa at the front of a sprint finish – UAE Team Emirates and Pogačar himself explain what happened

Clock19:17, Sunday 12th May 2024
Tadej Pogačar hugs a teammate at the Giro d'Italia

© Getty Images

Tadej Pogačar hugs a teammate at the Giro d'Italia

Naples is the city of road rage, the Camorra, and Diego Maradona’s double Scudetto success, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia unfolded here in the most unexpected fashion. These historic streets played host to a sprint finish to remember, led out by none other than Tadej Pogačar.

The UAE Team Emirates man and current holder of the maglia rosa punched a hole through the air in the wake of Ineos Grenadiers’ Jhonatan Narváez, who had sought his second stage victory of the race with a daring late attack. It was heartbreak for the Ecuadorian, with Pogačar’s pull strong enough to reel in the lone attacker and tee up Lidl-Trek to open the sprint for Jonathan Milan.

Pogačar was working for Juan Sebastián Molano, keen to repay the Colombian sprinter for his efforts over the past week. Neither Milan nor Molano would win in the end – that honour was reserved for Olav Kooij – but his Visma-Lease a Bike team certainly owed a debt of gratitude to the race leader for his role in extinguishing Narváez’s ambitions.

His eye-catching turn at the front of the peloton had taken not only his rivals and roadside supporters by surprise but also his UAE Team Emirates sports manager Joxean Fernández Matxín.

“It is instinct, instinct of the killer,” the Spaniard told GCN outside the UAE Team Emirates team bus. “We didn’t make this decision in the meeting, in fact on the contrary, it was for the sprinters to cover the leader until 3km to go so that he didn’t have any problems in the general classification.

“The focus is always on covering Tadej until the last 3km and then afterwards, it is the decision of Tadej. He is a good teammate, all of his teammates help Tadej and then in the moment, Tadej gives it back to his teammates, it is simple.”

Read more: Giro d'Italia stage 9: Olav Kooij snatches victory in thrilling Naples finale

The 53-year-old went on to explain that for all the spectacle created by Pogačar in the final kilometres, his position towards the front of the peloton was perfectly understandable. With a tricky descent into Naples to overcome, the team’s primary concern was keeping their leader safe and upright heading into the first rest day of the race on Monday. It was a feeling that Pogačar echoed in his press conference later in the afternoon.

“Today was a super hard final and Molano did a super good job to be in the front all the time with us, then I tried to help but it was not enough for the victory. If I can help, especially in this hectic final and on these bad roads with the up and down, it is better for me to be up front and help my friend towards a victory,” the Slovenian explained.

Molano appreciative of Pogačar’s support

Taking a moment to catch up with GCN after the stage, Pogačar’s teammate Mikkel Bjerg revealed that the ambition to see Molano sprinting for victory was instigated by their team leader earlier in the day.

“I didn’t watch the sprint but I understand he did a good lead-out for Seb, so it was nice. I think when he saw that Seb was climbing really well, he tried to encourage him to go for the sprint.”

With the encouragement of the maglia rosa in his ear, Molano rode to third over the line, his highest finish of the race so far. After a few stunted hit-outs on the flat stages to date, the 29-year-old could be pleased with his efforts and grateful for the belief shown in him by the Slovenian.

“I had a lot of motivation from Tadej today. He was in my ear on the radio in the last kilometres guiding me through and spurring me on and it gave me an extra push,” he said after the finish.

“I was measuring my efforts a bit on the climbs and drifting a lot but thanks to Tadej and the whole team I was looked after really well. Honestly, when you have Tadej helping you in this situation you feel the need to rise to the occasion.”

Molano, Pogačar and their teammates will now enjoy a rest day in Cantabria before the Giro resumes on Tuesday. Their efforts to date have left the team in a comfortable position as the holders of the race lead, but Fernández Matxín insists that there will be no letup over the next two weeks.

“Tomorrow more or less is not a real rest,” he said of the team’s plans for the rest day. “It is important that we have a minimum of two hours of activating the legs and then maybe one hour for a cappuccino.”

Bjerg’s response was more pointed, the Dane clearly ready to relax after a hard week’s work.

“I think just sleep long and try to eat as much as possible,” he smiled.

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.

Related Content

Link to 5 unmissable stages of the 2024 Tour de France
The fearsome Col du Galibier appears shockingly early in the 2024 Tour de France

5 unmissable stages of the 2024 Tour de France

Mountains, gravel, and final-day drama: Here's our pick of the most promising stages of the upcoming Tour de France

Link to Analysing Visma-Lease a Bike’s Tour de France long list
Jonas Vingegaard and his then Jumbo-Visma teammates have been triumphant at the Tour de France for the past two years

Analysing Visma-Lease a Bike’s Tour de France long list

With Jonas Vingegaard on the comeback trail and Sepp Kuss suffering from illness, the team still has plenty of question marks looming before July

Link to Should Tadej Pogačar be worried by Remco Evenepoel and Primož Roglič at the Tour de France? - GCN Racing News Show
YouTube video undefined

Should Tadej Pogačar be worried by Remco Evenepoel and Primož Roglič at the Tour de France? - GCN Racing News Show

The Critérium du Dauphiné came to a conclusion at the weekend with Roglič as the winner, but Dan Lloyd can't see him winning the Tour, here's why

Link to Adam Yates using Tour de Suisse as final test before Tour de France
Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates)

Adam Yates using Tour de Suisse as final test before Tour de France

British rider will back up Tadej Pogačar later this month but Suisse offers the chance to test his form and fitness

Subscribe to the GCN Newsletter

Get the latest, most entertaining and best informed news, reviews, challenges, insights, analysis, competitions and offers - straight to your inbox