Giro Stage 9 Preview

It’s back to Napoli for the third time in three years and an urban finish.

Pink Panther Purrs: it took a lot of trying but finally a big breakaway got away with some GC outsiders like Romain Bardet. No threat to Pogačar but still able to do a “snakes and ladders” Giro, losing time one day only to gain it the next.

Pogačar said post-stage that he asked his team mates if they were up for riding for the stage and they replied yes. It wasn’t a revelation given UAE rode hard during the stage and kept the breakaway at two minutes before catching them the foot of the climb to Prati di Tivo, even if Valentin Paret-Peintre stayed away for half the climb. After the stage several riders from the breakaway said it was also on them for not riding hard enough.

Pogačar’s win felt inevitable yet he didn’t land a knock-out blow. Worse for his rivals as he was toying with them. The pink panther cosplay as a cat playing with a mouse. Sated already by a comfortable lead, he didn’t need to devour his rivals. They were bracing for the attack but that never came. So Antonio Tiberi started the fireworks in the final two kilometres but each time he or Arensman jumped, Pogačar clawed them back. As the group marked each other, Rafał Majka rode back to them and was able to give a lead out to his boss. Finally in the space of 200m Pogačar had time to finish, pocketed the ten second bonus and a third stage win. On paper the margin of victory might look small but this was his most certain result so far.

The Route: over a week in and the first ride beyond 200km. There’s little to note about the course for the most part. The bump on the course after 60km isn’t even a mountain pass. It’s mainly flat roads and long straight sections, there are hills and mountain parks to the sides but they’re avoided today, a surprisingly modest stage for a Sunday.

Just as the race is going to Napoli for the third year in a row, the course returns to Monte Procida on the Flegrea peninsula again too. If you remember the racing from 2022, Procida was the gentle climb. There are two more bumps on the course but the difficulty isn’t the climbing and more the bends which can line out the bunch, which makes positioning even more precious.

The Finish: flat and by the sea front, the same course as 2022 with a U-turn at the flamme rouge before the finish by the sea.

The Contenders: a likely sprint, who to pick? Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) and Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quickstep) have a stage each and can easily repeat. Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Olav Kooij (Visma-LAB) look the most likely challengers.

Milan, Groves
Merlier, Kooij
Ewan, Bauhaus

Weather: sunshine and 23°C

TV: KM0 is at 12.15pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in for the sprint finish in town.

Postcard from Napoli
With about 2.5km to go the race passes close to the Piazza Eritrea. Piazza is doing some heavy lifting here, don’t picture a large square with a fountain in the middle and cafes in the arcades, think instead of a seedy parking lot between two buildings. Apparently it once had a fountain but this was a functional trough to water horses hauling goods to the port. Either way it’s a hook to bring up the subject of Eritrea and bike races, even if Biniam Girmay has gone home when he might have hoped to win today.

As competing European powers rushed to take colonies in Africa during the 19th century, Italy occupied Eritrea and the borders established then have roughly stayed the same since. The colonial history is told better by experts rather than a sports blogger but one tangential result was the cultural significance of bike racing brought by the Italians. This helps explain why there are four Eritreans in the World Tour, more than any other African country.

You might see many Eritrean flags at bike races and when Girmay won Gent-Wevelgem he was treated to a hero’s welcome in Asmara, the capital. So far so good, but the country is sometimes referred to as the “North Korea of Africa”. It’s a clumsy comparison but evokes the authoritarian government, the lack of human rights and almost zero media freedom in a country where internet use is low and the few media outlets available are all run by the Ministry of Information.

So when Girmay is feted it can be a popular delight… but also propaganda for the regime. Likewise with the flags at races in Europe, there might be some proud members of the diaspora but there can also be regime supporters from the local embassy or consulate sent out to fly the flag.

Further to this is the “diaspora tax”, an semi-unofficial levy where those living abroad can pay 2% of their income to the local Eritrean embassy, even if they already pay tax in their country of residence. Those who have fled for good can refuse but people with family in the country, or those wanting to maintain access to the country and consular services including having a passport for travel have to pay. This might includes the pro cyclists, given they need passports. It is a significant source of revenue for the government.

So while the emergence of African cyclists brings much to celebrate and enjoy, when it comes to Eritrea things are more complicated.

87 thoughts on “Giro Stage 9 Preview”

  1. “Piazza” quite often actually IS a parking lot for cars here in Italy. Not by design but once they start parking ’em there they’re hard to get rid of.
    I’ve seen photos of “our” Piazza Duomo here on the tiny island of Ortigia back when it was full of cars. They said the screaming was intense when they banned them, but nobody would suggest they turn this gorgeous space back into a carpark. I wish they’d do it to a few more here, including the one nearest our house but I’m not holding my breath – the car culture here is as strong as anywhere.
    On another note – wonder if the folks at Trek are re-thinking their canning of Antonio Tiberi now? They kept the racist guy (who has been invisible lately) but the cat-killer they just couldn’t keep on? He’s making their CG riders look pretty bad at present. Can he keep it up?

      • I lived in Napoli for awhile in 2018/2019, but it’s no worse than here in Sicily. Getting on/off the tiny island is a challenge many days…cars idling along with driver looking for a space to park…any space to park – then when he/she spots one…LOOK OUT if you’re between them and the space!! Sometimes when I’m washing bikes in front of my house I’ll see the same f__king car come past multiple times, circling in search of somewhere to park the thing!!!

      • And what about… Milan? Sidewalks are normally used as parkings. But, say, Viterbo can be the same. Decades of unrelenting toxic car culture. However, in some cities the trend is partly shifting and in the last handful of years at least cars are being completely taken out from the historical centre.

    • Re Trek and Tiberi – it puts me in mind of the anti-Vietnam war protest in 1968 where student protesters held a demonstration against the use of napalm in Vietnam by announcing that a dog would be burned alive with napalm in front of the university of Pennsylvania library. Thousands turned up to protest, only to be handed a leaflet reading:

      “Congratulations on your anti-napalm protest. You saved the life of a dog. Now, how about saving the lives of tens of thousands of people in Vietnam.”

      Text Copied from the Zinn Project

      • It seemed Tiberi was sacked not for the incident alone but he didn’t tell the team about the court case the first they learned about it was when the story exploded on social media so this and the incident itself caused a breakdown in trust.

  2. Whisper it now, but Pogicar’s all round superiority is starting to look more than a little Merckx like!

    Second line: ” a big breakaway with away with some GC” should read ‘got’ not ‘with’.

    • I still think he’s doing more harm than good here. There are bigger fish to fry down the road in the Tour and he’s using energy, not pointlessly as stage wins are always welcomed but maybe unwisely.

      • I think Pogecar is looking after himself pretty well. He was hidden away in about 20th place for a lot of yesterday’s stage keeping out of the wind. The bigger concern must be his team, who may struggle in the third week if their workload is not reduced. Today the sprinter teams should be in control so they have an opportunity to recover.

      • Too many are getting way too far out over their skis here. Week one of the Giro has just finished and they’re getting their chamois-all-in-a-bunch about LeTour and how the guy should (I guess) just ride around conserving his 2+ minute lead so he can be better rested for the next GT.
        I’m happy the RAI TV guys all pushed back on this when the Processo host expressed this idea. I’d like to enjoy La Corsa Rosa now and think about Le Grand Boucle when the time comes, when we see if the pasty Dane decides if he’s fit enough to start. His rival showed up a bit short-of-form last time (some said) from his time off the bike post LBL…will the Dane have the cojones to do the same this year?

      • It’s obvious that it might not work, but as his coach made clear several days ago, Pogačar he’s quite evidently training. Yesterday’s pattern, otherwise hard to explain, also makes sense under that perspective.

    • You get the feeling that in a field like this Pogačar could steal wins on almost any stage he wanted, without really hurting his GC chances. Not having watched during the Merckx era, is that how he got his 525? – winning just because he could, not because it was strategic towards GC goals.

  3. I’m looking for Alpecin to really try and rip the finale of the race to give Groves the hard race he prefers. To make that happen, they’ve got to let Trek and Soudal control early and risk losing a grip on the breakaway. However the race goes, I’ll be in Napoli to see my first Giro stage!

  4. INRNG community! Any Napoli locals or people familiar with the City. I’m in Naples to catch the finale of stage 9. Any recommends for places / bars to watch the stage before heading to watch the finish? Any info would be greatly appreciated.

    • L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
      – I went here in 2003 and it was incredible. Went back 15 years later, it still was.
      Get the Margherita – any extra toppings are just ‘pollution’.

      • One of the temples of pizza for sure. We sampled a ton of ’em including Michele during our time living in the historic center of Napoli. There was a pretty good place just 50 steps from our front door – Petrucci took 3 euros for a margherita to-go from me at least once-a-week. I didn’t even have to do anything after awhile but walk-in, say CIAO and hand over the 3 euros.

    • It’s a strategy by RCS, some weekend stages aren’t aimed at max TV audience, rather urban circuits with no excessive GC interest in order to maximise roadside public instead of people on their sofas, to show off roadside public itself. Been some years now.

  5. I don’t really buy the ‘Pog is using the Giro to train for the TdF’ line that his people have come out with – unless all the other coaches in recent years have been wrong about how to prepare for the Tour.

    I think Pog knows (look at the ITT last year) that Vin has the better of him in grand tours, and so decided it’d be better to win the Giro and come 2nd in the Tour than just come 2nd in the Tour. (Now, of course, Pog has a much better chance, with Vin being injured and/or unfit.)

    I still think it would be better for Pog and particularly for his teammates to do less work and save some energy for the TdF, but maybe they’ll take it easier in the latter half of this race.

    Either way, yesterday’s stage was a great one to fast-forward through, as I did. It became clear very quickly that no group was going to be allowed much time. The idea that it was because there were GC threats in that group is nonsense: UAE rode like that from the start, even when that first group went and there was nobody faintly on GC in it.

    I said at the start of the race that RCS might regret paying to get Pog at the race as the GC would be no contest. I for one am voting with my feet and watching far less of the race than I normally would. It’s a procession. Had a break gone clear yesterday, it would have been worth watching.

    Sky rode like this, Jumbo were even worse, if anything, and now UAE are doing the same thing.

    I don’t know how long people will continue to be interested in watching a few riders beating everyone easily in almost every big race, but for me it’s tedious as hell. They – Pog, MVDP, WVA, Evenepoel, Vin – are superb, but exciting racing it is not.

    • “I think Pog knows (look at the ITT last year) that Vin has the better of him in grand tours, ”
      Talk about getting out over your skis! I think we need to wait a few years before making proclamations like these, no?
      But I’ll predict now that NOBODY will ever imply that the pasty Dane is the new Eddy Merckx.

    • The last two years, Vin has pretty comprehensively beaten Pog in the Tour – the only race Vin really tried to beat him in. There were excuses from Pog fans: ‘tactical mistakes’ in the first one, ‘injury in LBL’ in the second one, but excuses are all they are. Vin had him in both races.
      Pog is a better overall rider, obviously. But, thus far, Vin has showed himself to be the better GT rider.

      Last year’s Giro wasn’t a thriller, but this one could end up being much worse than it.

      • Agreeing overall, but with two further points. Vinge is to be seen in a bad or at least mediocre year for his team. I watched him climbing at Ti-Ad and although dominating the field of rivals he didn’t impress me in absolute terms. Second point, I’m with you for now regarding GTs but Vingegaard clearly tried to beat Pogi at Pa-Ni and exploded in the process. And I’m of course assuming that you’re meaning “stage races”with “races” above because I remember well Vinge trying to hold Pogi’s wheel on Civiglio – to no effect. *For now*, Vinge clearly looks like a “peak rider”, with a significant difference between his very top form which he can apparently achieve on a reduced number of races (or days, even, if one also thinks of his very very very top form, his real margin on Pogi, as seen at last TDF or Vuelta).

        • I think Vin has only one real aim in each season – the TdF (every other race is really just training). He may have tried to win Pa-Ni while he was in the race, but he certainly didn’t focus his training on being in form at that time of the year.

          • total aside, but struggling to know what was wrong with last seasons Giro? It was a very solid edition I thought? Great Remco drama early on, then Rog’s weak phase was exciting and finally his resurgence was extremely dramatic? Was a solid 8/10 for me. But I also enjoyed Jai’s win the previous year that seems to be universally disliked by everyone.

          • Pa-Ni training for what? And Ti-Ad? You are not «training» 4 months before. Even more so, Lombardia training for what? Maybe you mean he «couldn’t» or «shouldn’t» peak more often, but that’s precisely my point. He wasn’t in his very very very top special shape? So, when he isn’t his performance level is proportionally way lower than the famous «peak». Pogacar wasn’t in top shape in Lombardia (hard to be for anyone),’ and yet…
            Compare with Itzulia 2022.
            Obviously, when rivals are several step below, as they often are, it’s hard to make comparisons when both top dogs are not racing. Vingo’s early 2023 might look impressive, only when he met Pogacar it looked less so.

            Another small detail…believe me, at the hard end of a Lombardia you don’t go fuorigiri trying to hold a rival’s wheel because it’s much fun, so to say, it’s because you want to have a shot at victory.

          • I think you are correct there. And IMHO he seems like the same guy shoveling ice on the fish – just a job he’s paid to do. No real joy or passion in it, just better than being paid to shovel. I was trying to think of an inspiring, charismatic Danish bike racer past or present and came up with – none.

          • gabriele, you can nit-pick all you like, my point is simply this: Vin focuses on one race, the TdF. And he wins it.
            He does other races, but his season has one focus.

          • Rolf Sorenson? He’s even popular in Italy, with an Italian nickname no less. Pedersen is one of my favourite current riders too. And even if he didn’t win much, Brian Holm is cool.

          • We don’t know if he focuses on Pa-Ni or Ti-Ad or Itzulia, too, really.
            And even if we assume he does not, which may be reasonable (or not), your point is now reduced to Larry’s line about one-trick ponies.

            He’s “always” winning in the race which only matters to him… and it’s the only one that matters because he happened to get beat elsewhere.

            In Armstrong’s case this might look more credible (although if one looks closer he’d have loved to win a LBL and when badly beat during Dauphiné he got incredibly angry). Not as much if you look at Vingo’s actual calendar. Surely, he’s going in that direction (just as Pogi is going in the opposite one), but it wasn’t his situation in the last two seasons.

            That said, Pogacar doesn’t focus on the TDF only, that’s always been clear enough. He pretty much never did, I suspect. But, if anything, he focussed more on the TDF in 2020 and 2021, duly winning both.

          • Keep trying boys. I thought of Ol’ Mr. 60% – he was charismatic…if you describe that as being an a-hole.
            Rolf Sorensen is pretty low on my inspiring/charisma meter, right up there with Ole Ritter though I don’t think Ritter was a dope-cheat…at least not in the way we think of them now?

      • This is an interesting conversation – you’re both right?

        Not trying to play peacekeeper or be unfashionably PC but I honestly think all the points make sense and are correct? Maybe if the aim is to be objective, Larry T has to concede on the current evidence we have as viewers J Evans has good reason to say Vin might be the better GT rider. Then J Evans probably should concede that the mitigations both Pog’s team and fans argue in the last two TDF’s may or may not be legitimate and we won’t conclusively know for a few years of their rivalry yet…?

        I’m def a Pog fan but it’s clear Vin has beaten him repeatedly in the last two years, especially at key moments of the TDF that seem quite revealing of their qualities as riders at this moment. That alone suggests he might be the better GT rider currently. But it’s also true that Pog did race when not fully recovered from a broken wrist last year and in the previous year he did make a tactical and fuelling error that cost him badly – we just don’t know yet whether either are the difference between him beating Vin or not.

        We should also take into account that Pogacar is two years younger than Vin plus has raced recklessly (energy wise) recently and with a weaker team in 2023 – so physiologically he may still develop past Vin and tactically/teamwise he may also make/be making alterations that move him ahead.

        There’s a high likelihood even in a few years we also still won’t know though and both opinions could still be true by then! Such is the magic of sport and I look forward to the debate continuing here then! I just find it infuriating we can’t see them clash more in top form as the first week and a half of last years Tour were magical, and should injuries or form get in the way there’s a chance we may never see it again, which just feels like total madness.

    • And you clearly got wrong what Pogačar’s coach said. They decided to go for the double anyway, hence they’d *treat* (better than “use”) the Giro as a training block.

      • I don’t believe it either way. I think if UAE thought Pog could beat Vin in the TdF, there’s no way they’d allow Pog to do the Giro.

        I’m not criticising Pog for doing the Giro – I wish more of the top riders would (or I’d rather have lots of them or none of them – anything but one rider who is head and shoulders above the rest in the race).

        Nor – just to be clear – am I criticising Pog for winning as many stages as he can: it’s a race, and he has every right to do so. Dull to watch, though.

        • But would you say you’re 100%?

          That’s my only niggle – because I agree with your argument but I think we have to admit we don’t know emphatically? To me it’s 50/50?

          As Gabriele’s says, Pog’s coaches seem adamant (as you would expect) that he’s moved on significantly this year but we just do not know, and probably won’t for a few years, and until we do, who can really say anything definitively on the outcomes/decisions of the last three years?

          I think in five years there might even be an argument still… because if Pog develops (being two years younger) we might end up arguing that Vin was still better in 22, 23 but Pog developed a higher ceiling later to surpass him? Or some will argue we just eventually saw a true Pog and that recontextualise the years he lost to Vin. Or Vin continues to win and everyone will be forced to concede he was the better GT rider all along.

          My only argument is we cannot be completely sure of anything as it stands currently unless we’re inside the UAE team bus!

        • The pasty Dane’s (so far anyway) a one-trick pony. And one with the same number of TdF victories as Pogacar if you’re one of those who thinks LeTour is the be-all/end-all..which I’m not.
          Only time will tell which one is a better bike racer…for me right now it’s advantage Pogacar..and I can’t see the pasty Dane ever measuring up to him.

        • He didn’t try hard on the sterrati stage and Saturday was clearly minimal effort. OTOH he’s going over the top with short burst at the end of stages with no or little winning chance, see also today. And it seems it depends more on the calendar than on road events or competition. For now, this is not like «they say he’s training», it’s more like «it looks like training» (barring the very first stage, perhaps Oropa). The training conjecture, for now, works better than anything else.

          Now, the other point. It’s not like they think they can easily beat Vingo 2022 vintage like this. And you’re right, they know that if the situation of that ITT gets repeated, they’re wasting time trying to beat him. Yet, they also probably thought that if Vingo *for whatever reason* wouldn’t again be able to draw another black swan from his hat, including misfortune or not starting, of course, then Pogi might get *relatively* similar chances whether he went for the double with a proper preparation, or for the TDF only. I’m with you in thinking they assumed it wasn’t on them only to get a serious TDF chance. But that’s precisely when if you’re daring it might be worth raising your game. Because if the other aspects of the matter do change… well well… it’s history against scoring points.

          • Which doesn’t mean it will work, of course. Only that to me it’s a good strategy. Worth trying even if he ended up losing to Rogla or Remco in case Vingo doesn’t actually get his needed top form back.

          • Who knows, gabriele, you might be right – obviously, I don’t know anything, this is all just speculation and opinion (which I’d have thought goes without saying, but some here don’t seem to get that). I hope you are right because then others will copy it. I’m not sure either Pog or UAE will be pleased with the decision if he loses the Tour to someone other than Vin, though.

          • ‘but some here don’t seem to get that’
            ha, this made me laugh, always makes me smile how much you can feel seething irritation through just a few clicks on a keyboard – I find it kind of amazing how many ways we’ve created to express our joy and annoyance in life… a personal favourite is how any cyclist can sense a drivers mood just from hearing their use of the throttle while waiting to overtake.

        • “I think if UAE thought Pog could beat Vin in the TdF, there’s no way they’d allow Pog to do the Giro.”
          This opinion is based on what information that I’ve never seen? Has anyone at UAE every publicly expressed doubt that Pogacar can win TdF again, whether the pasty Dane is there or not?

    • “I think Pog knows (look at the ITT last year) that Vin has the better of him in grand tours,”

      46-2-1-1-2 is better than 3-1-1-2-2 plus a actual led in Giro now in fantasy-math, good to know

      • Note my use of the present tense: ‘Vin *has* the better of him in grand tours’. What they have done in races where the other was not present is immaterial to this argument, as is what Vin did before he became a GC leader.
        I think most people got that.

    • Ride well and you might win all the same. This Giro’s TV figures have been good barring the stage with no commentary because of a strike (surprisingly enough 1M people still watched!) and the sterrati stage, which had decent numbers but was rather disappointing against expectations. Of course this was the «good» week, people for now are watching mainly hoping for further attacks by Pogi. 2022 had a very good first week with great battles for many stages, only as it often wasn’t about GC viewing figures were terrible. It’s very hard to understand what makes a good audience, our personal taste doesn’t matter much. I was very entertained by this Giro until now except yesterday, but it was predictable, it’s very typical for the uphill finish midway through or at the end of the first week. Anyway, according to evidence a challenging route (though on paper only!) does raise TV figures for a given stage, national athletes do, too, and general stardom also works (not Froome, for some reason). Brilliantly raced stages help through the week, a tight competition doesn’t as much. 2022 and 2023 were tragic, which is why RCS raised their game with the Pogi card.

      • ‘Brilliantly raced stages help through the week, a tight competition doesn’t as much.’

        This is a great argument – I’m still not as down on ’22/’23 as everyone else – but this is probably the best point (given all the debate around Giro’s, boring Classic’s, boring Tour’s that seem endless) anyone’s put down on this comment section in recent days now that we have had a week of Giro racing and are not just speculating on what might happen from the route map.

        • Thanks.
          Anyway, at least previous speculation has been fully verified by this first stages, so it was bad cycling debate but great science. I still hope that cycling will prevail over predictability in what awaits us, because otherwise it won’t be always as entertaining…
          That said, I criticised vehemently the course until I knew that Pogačar was starting, which obviously explained it all. With the Poginess in, what else could I say but “ends justify means”?

          Ps I loved the driver/cyclist comment you made somewhere else

          • I have to admit, I had no real opinion on the course, maybe because I’ve never been lucky enough to cycle most roads in Europe outside of the Pyrenees and Spain or at least do not know them intimately, so I live in ignorance of the routes till I see them raced except for the regular mountain finishes.

            But the backlash was interesting and maybe because of my ignorance I was inclined for a wait and see approach, although (as noted previously) did like TDK’s preGiro counter argument and the reference to other courses that were made easier recently and subsequently improved the racing.

            Pogacar racing is just a joy and the upturn in interest because he’s there is also interesting to ponder, as a dominant champion in any sport, especially niche sports, seems generally have the opposite of the assumed ‘it’s boring, let’s switch off’ effect and actually encourages fair weather fans to watch it seems? I guess because they hear the name and want to see what the fuss is all about.

            I have a feeling that once we’re all said and done with Pog’s career he may well be my favourite sportsperson ever.

          • As you may easily check back, even if my opinion on the route in general was poor (which – as I mentioned many times – has a *definite, not deterministic* series of specific effects on racing), my vision on the sprint stages of the first week was good, as expressed here, and same can be said for the first two stages. I was not alone, of course, dare I say it was the dominant feeling among fans interested in discussing the subject of “the route in itself”. But you should note that such a positive appreciation was due to all those stages being *harder*, not *easier* than their usual corresponding stages in recent Giros. Same for the ITT. Unlike the sterrati or the first Appennine uphill finish.

            Anyway I think that now “some conditions” (read, Pogi) *might* favour what it looked barely possible, i.e., GC action from far out before the Grappa stage. I suspect that much depends on him, anyway. Yet if he just sails away alone from a decent distance *but* the rest don’t attack each other from far or at least a dozen kms from the finish line until the very last stages, it will be disappointing all the same.

            For now I prefer this edition over 22 and 23, although admittedly 22 had a good first half and 23 a decent last week. I just hope we won’t get a TDF 21/23 effect, i.e., great first half then “snooze fest” (Larry’s trademark I think, credit due).

  6. I’m too young to have witnessed Merckx in action but the ‘Cannibal’
    nickname tells all I need to know about the manner in which he won his races.
    Pogacar’s palmares may prove to be Merckxian but surely his unique appeal is that he wins so apparently effortlessly and without malice. CN’s headline today – “Cannibal Tadej Pogačar storms to victory on stage 8 at Prati di Tivo” – strikes a false note to me and begs the question – if Merckx was the Cannibal, by what name should Pog be known?

    • L’Equipe were one of the first to brand Pogačar as Le Cannibale but crucially almost always with some other phrase that works in opposition, like the Little Cannibal or memorably something along the lines of “the Cannibal with the cherubic face of the boy on the front of a box of Kinder chocolates”, it’s contrasts like this that seem to say something, the victory rate but also the boy-on-the-bike.

      Merckx seemed more compelled to win, the tale of him hunting down Dino Zandegu after a Giro stage to complain and threaten him after the Italian had beaten him in an intermediate sprint for some wine (no time bonus, no points, just wine he could afford to buy) is one example of this compulsion.

      The interesting thing at the moment is that as good as he is, if Vingegaard is at 100% then the Dane might be superior in the Tour de France. So it’s not like Pogačar wins everything like Merckx who had seven years of winning every grand tour he started and he’d win bunch sprints too.

      • The smiling nice boy image and the tufts sticking out of his helmet for some reason remind me of a Japanese cartoon.
        I kind of agree with the sentiment. There’s no need to chase everything down and win every stage. a) because it’s kind of greedy and breaks one of those unwritten rules of cycling etiquette, and b) because it is a bit tedious. Break away stages can be like mini one day races and most fans enjoy them.

        • Reminds me more of a certain Belgian cartoon – more apt given the Merckx aspect of this thread. Also apt is that the said character is called “Kuifje” in dutch, or “Tufty”.

          English audiences will know him by the original french name: “Tintin”.

      • Loved the Merckx anecdote.

        What year is that from?

        Only because you can hear in Pog’s demeanour that he’s getting bored of press conferences after each day and he might not always be the smiling assassin! Maybe we’ll get some later career stories of Pog the monster diva!

  7. Reminds me of the old horse racing addiage. Measure never extended.
    Win only by enough and don’t over do the victory.

    Thanks everyone for for all the interesting perspectives. Ring thanks for the social studies
    notes on Eritrea.

    • But that is because if you win by too many lengths , your horse goes up in the handicap and so carries more weight in future races ( until you get into Grade Ones, obviously) . So part of the jockeys’ skill is calculating a sufficient but not extravagant winning margin.

      It seems to me to be completely different in bike racing, where every extra second counts towards your overall standing.

  8. Re: some points about UAE being happy or unhappy made by KevinR, J Evans above…
    I suspect that something which helps Pogačar or van der Poel in achieving big things is that they are less prone to obeying what a team or sponsor decided for them. Not that they don’t care or are above it all, far from, it’s rather a matter of grades. It depends on many factors but it’s definitely a part of the several reasons which allowed them ro literally reshape cycling.
    I dunno if fans are fully aware of the technical potential for greater challenges we lost in previous decades because TMs and DSs said that Sanremo is too dangerous, the cobbles are too dangerous…
    Or also: never attack from far, it’s sheer suicide; this race is more important for the sponsor than greater ones; a stage at the TDF is a top priority not Classics or GC at the Giro; you’re a heavy rider so you’re better spent as a workhorse, it won’t harm you after all etc.

    • gabriele, I agree with every word. And, for example, spent a long time a few years ago complaining about BMC’s (in my view, both at the time and now, incorrect) decision to limit Gilbert to the hilly classics and van Avermaet to the cobbled classics, rather than putting them both in both types of race.

      I’ve also long put forward the idea that a more attacking style of racing will win more races (as we now see).

  9. Thoughts.
    Great race so far. I spent the last 50K of stage 9 on the home trainer watching the final, having decided to miss the proceeding Ks
    Pagacar is certainly the nearest thing to Merckx in terms of bike handling and all round ability. A few generations on, the need to win as much as possible to earn a crust is different. But in terms of sheer class and ability Pogacar ticks all the box’s.
    If you dish it out Larry, you have to be prepared to take it back. I hope you have not left the blog, as although you can be somewhat opinionated, you always guarantee discussion. Advice. Keep to the sport, not personal assassination’s.
    Jonatan Narvaez is one of INEOS more exciting riders. It was Pogacar himself who was instrumental in dragging him back just before the line.
    Talk is that Ethan Hayter, who earns a very large salary, will not be kept on by INEOS next season.

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