Tadej is hard, tomorrow will be worse | a recap of Stages 10-15 of the 2024 Giro d’Italia

Well this is all getting a bit processional, isn’t it? Albeit a very rapid, phenomenally exhausting procession.

The working week

Tadej Pogacar hopped back onto his bike on Tuesday with a 2m40s advantage over second placed Daniel Martinez.

When he knocked off on Friday afternoon, the gap was still 2m40s, so I’m not going to bother writing anything else about stages 10 to 13.

The time trial

The race’s second time trial, on Saturday, stands out as being a day when someone beat Tadej Pogacar.

Sure, the sprinters have won stages and there’s been the odd day for the breakaway riders, but by and large, if Pogacar’s actively been trying to win, he’s done so.

In week one, the time trial had finished with a climb. Filippo Ganna had been first at the time check at the bottom, but second by the top.

This second time trial was a flat one.

Ganna won.

So it seems it *is* possible to beat Pogacar in this Giro. All you need is to be a 6ft4in monster of a time-triallist, riding on a course perfectly tailored to your strengths.

Ganna won by 29s. The other key time gaps were 45s from Pogacar to Geraint Thomas, extending his overall lead, and 31s from Thomas to Daniel Martinez, which was enough to shunt the Welshman back into second place overall.

The huge mountain stage

Sunday was a horrible day. At 220km, horribly long, and with over 5,000m of vertical gain, over horribly challenging terrain as well. Just horrible all round.

Pogacar made his big attack with 15km to go. Daniel Martinez tried to follow him, but he’d been further back in the group, so by the time he responded, there was already a gap that could never be closed.

For his part, Geraint Thomas didn’t even bother trying, opting instead to get from bottom to top at a consistent pace of his own choosing.

Within a couple of kilometres, Pogacar had a minute’s advantage on the other… well, ‘favourites’ isn’t really the word in this context, is it? I’m not sure you could call them rivals either really.

The Slovenian had set off on his attack when his group was three minutes behind the front of the race with any number of breakaway riders in between. He hauled them all in and had a 29s lead by the line – Nairo Quintana’s head start having proven woefully insuffient.

Thomas and Martinez both lost another 2m50s, which meant Pogacar’s cushion is now a near-meaningless 6m41s. The only thing that could change things is the slim, slim possibility that the final week of the Giro might crush him.

What’s next

The quickest way to preview the week ahead would be to highlight the respite.

Stage 16 (Tuesday) is a summit finish with over 4,000m of climbing.

So is Stage 17 – but this time with fewer horizontal kilometres. Whether that makes it easier or more intense is open to interpretation, but the fact it comes straight after Stage 16 means it’s surely going to feel tougher either way.

Stage 18 is an out-and-out sprint day.

Stage 19 (Friday) trends uphill without looking too dramatic on the face of it. It includes ‘just’ 2,800m of climbing.

Stage 20 (Saturday) is another 4,000m+ day, almost purely via two ascents of Monte Grappa. This is the last proper challenge for what will by this point be some very tired legs.

Stage 21 is your usual half-hearted piss-about sprint stage.

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