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David L. Stanley

2024 Giro d'Italia: It's a Wrap

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David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Story of the Tour de France and Cycling Heroes.

David L. Stanley


Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle

David L. Stanley's masterful telling of his bout with skin cancer Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

David L. Stanley writes:

Tadej Pogačar is a god. Tadej Pogačar is a god. Tadej Pogačar is a god.

Tadej Pogačar is a god. Tadej Pogačar is a god.

And once more, Tadej Pogačar is a god.

With the Giro 2024, we saw an explosion of talent that has all the old geezers sputtering in their Duvels and Lindemans. “It cannot be!” “No, he cannot be that great!” “Something is not normal.” Indeed, something is not normal; nobody leads the Giro from stage 2 until the finish in Rome. Normally. And if you consider that Tadej was just nipped in the stage 1 sprint which cost him a slight time bonus, he would have all the maglia rosa on offer.

Stage one finish, Pogacar (left) just misses the stage win. Sirotti photo

Two men have done that: Merckx in 1973, and Alfredo Binda in 1927. (As an aside, now that the once-ubiquitous Binda Extra toe straps have not been needed for road racing since the late ’80s, how long until the name ‘BINDA’ fades from the cycling consciousness?)

Perhaps, you need evidence that Tadej Pogačar is a god. Here’s what a guy who knows a bit about racing a bike said after Saturday’s stage. “On pure, physical talent, he’s unique. His talent level is insane. I’ve raced with some really good blokes and he’s the best. There is only one guy maybe on his level and we don’t even know what Jonas will be like when he comes back. But Tadej, he’s the best I’ve raced with.” Who said that? Let’s talk about a couple other guys for a second and I’ll let you know.

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Random fun fact: Georg Steinhauser (EF Education-EasyPost), winner of the testing Stage 17’s 159 km trek from Selva di Val Gardena to Passo del Brocon, is Jan Ullrich’s nephew by marriage.

Georg Steinhauser wins stage 17. Sirotti photo

1) You have to love Julian Alaphilippe. He races with joy and panache and elan and grinta, and of late, he often sacrifices himself for a teammate, and he wins. Yellow jerseys. Two World Championships. Classics and Monuments like Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche and La Fleche Wallone. You don’t get those on anything except massive talent coupled with immense discipline and sacrifice and a willingness to embrace the pain that pro cycling doles out. LouLou, by every measure, is an extraordinary pro. He also happens to work for the one of the biggest asshats (allegedly) to ever sit in the seat of the Director Sportif in Patrick Lefevere.

Lefevere was a marginal pro. A very marginal pro with two noteworthy wins: a stage of the Vuelta and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, both in 1978. The amount of unwarranted public abuse with which Lefevere assaults his team would get him reported to Human Resources and fired in nearly every other line of work. PL’s very public tantrums towards his athletes are a slap in the face to every dedicated, solid pro on a bike. You can hold a slacking athlete’s feet to the fire when needed in private, that’s part of the job. But to denigrate your athletes so vehemently in public lets everyone know what you are—a despicable human.
Why is Lefevere such an asshat? He is extraordinarily jealous (allegedly) of the talents and palmares of his best riders—they are everything he never was.

Just to clarify: LouLou won stage 12 and was four times the winner of the day’s combativity award. Was there ever a better way to say, “PISS OFF, PATTY!” than that? We need a lot more Ted Lasso and a lot less Bobby Knight in the character of our Directors Sportif these days.

Julian Alaphilppe celebrates his stage 12 win. Sirotti photo

2) A nod to Jonathon Milan (Lidl-Trek). I’ve seen a lot of powerful, fast men on the road since I started to watch bike racing in the early 1980s. There’s a lot of turnover among the fast guys. Top Fuel Dragster speed is the province of the young. This Milan, he’s doing something just a little bit more than the pure evolution of speed. His stats from Stage 4, taken from the last 20 seconds of the race, courtesy of Velon.
Average Watts – 1620 W.
Peak Wattage – 1940.
Average speed – 71.4 kph/41.4 mph.
Top speed – 75.4 kph/47 mph.

Head down, Jonathan Milan drives his bike to the finish line to win stage 4. Sirotti photo

In plain language, Milan’s sprint could power 2 refrigerators for 20 seconds. (I checked, mine uses 600 W.) At 75 kph, that’s turning your 53x11 at 120 RPM. For me, one of the greatest things about Milan is the hubbub about his form. He uses every ounce of energy; arms, torso, legs all rocking as he rips off the handlebars. He throws out the window all the stuff we’ve always heard about “form.” I hear it in social media—he’s derided—“If he’d only learn to sprint with good form…” “But he looks so terrible when he sprints!”
Yeah, screw that. Good people, maybe everything you always heard about form is wrong. Maybe the trick is to throw all that technique stuff out the window and just crush it. I do notice that he has about 33% more points than the guy in 2nd, Kaden Groves, and double that of 3rd place, Tim Merlier; both of them very fast men indeed.


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Back to Our Hero, TP. The quote up there that ends with “But Tadej, he’s the best I’ve raced with. ” Who said it? That would be Geraint Thomas, OBE, a man who has won the very highest honors on road and velodrome. And good people, in every sport, Game knows Game.

Come with me for a moment, back through the mists of time as we re-visit a few of the Giri’s greatest hits.

Eddy Merckx: rode his 1st Giro in 1967 and won in 1968 at age 22, nearly 23. It was, much like 2024, a race noted by horrible weather. Eddy won the leader’s jersey, the mountains, and the points. This was also the first year of random doping tests. Won by 5:01 over Adorni and 9:05 over Gimondi. Age 22, nearly 23. Eddy would win 5.

Eddy Merckx in the world champion's rainbow jersey winning a stage in the 1968 Giro d'Italia.

Jacques Anquetil: Maitre Jacques would first win in 1960 at age 26. He took the top step over Gastone Nencini by 00:28 and Charly Gaul by 3:51. Can we agree, a pretty fair podium? He would win 2.

1968 Giro d'Italia: Anquetil on the Gavia Pass.

Fausti Coppi: He won in 1940 at age 20. To this day, Fausto is still the youngest winner we’ve had. He won by 2:40 over Mollo and Cottur by 11:45. He would win 5 in total.

1940 Giro d'Italia: Gino Bartali leads Fausto Coppi up a climb.

Tadej Pogačar. I’ll say it right here, up front, because I hear the grumbling.

  1. Do you have any evidence? No? Come back when you do and I’ll issue a public mea culpa. I know, we’ve all been burned badly.
  2. No, it’s not boring. Did you complain when Serena did the Serena Slam in tennis? When Tiger did golf’s Tiger Slam? When Brasil won three World Cups in four tournaments (’58, ’62, ’70)? When Indurain won five straight Tours? When Roche won his Triple Crown in 1987? You probably did, but that sounds like a you problem.

Tadej’s First Giro (sounds like a children’s book, doesn’t it?) and his first win. He is 25. He’s on the top step by 9:56 over Dani Martinez (Bora-Hansgrohe), age 28, and over just-turned 38 (birthday 25 May 1986) Geraint Thomas (Ineos-Grenadiers) by 10:24. He missed a wire to wire victory by taking a 3rd place in a small group sprint on the day’s first stage. That put him 6 seconds in arrears, but what is 6 seconds to a man who can demolish his opponents at will? That’s 20 maglia rosa after Sunday’s finale in Rome.

Tadej Pogacar in Rome (with the ancient forum behind him) wearing his 20th Maglia Rosa of the 2024 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

He will also own the climber’s jersey, the maglia azzurra. He took 6 stage wins, more than any GC-style rider in Giro history. He can sprint. He won solo in the mountains. He is the pre-eminent time trialist of all the GC men and one of the best amongst the specialists. TP’s winning margin is 9:56 is a jaw-dropper. We have to go back to the 1984 Tour de France and Laurent Fignon’s 10:32 margin over Hinault. In the Giro, it’s back to 1965 as Vittoria Adorni won by 11:26 over Italo Zilioli.


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Tadej also has good humor and the finest sportsmanship. I’m not sure what else you want in a sporting icon. Ex-pro turned pundit Matt Stephens does an excellent series for Sigma Sports titled The Café Ride. I highly recommend them all but this one, The Café Ride with Tadej Pogačar is terrific.

This is the explosion of talent we needed. It happens every so often, and it gives us a brief glimpse into what generational talent, great genes, and discipline looks like. This Giro showed us, over three weeks, what can be the limitless potential of humanity. I have it on reasonable authority that Signore Pogacar was not created by any AI program.

Tadej Pogacar wins stage two, giving him the GC lead. RCS photo

By the way, did you see all the smiles from the fans at the roadside as Tadej rode past, solo, with an occasional grin for the fans? Did you see the ten-year-old boy’s face when Tadej took a few seconds to swerve across the road on his way to victory on Saturday to hand him his bidon?

I’ll see you in Florence in 33 days for Le Grande Départ. Which, I suppose, is also La Grande Partenza, parte II.

No matter - Grazie Italia! Grazie, Giro d'Italia!

David Stanley, like nearly all of us, has spent his life working and playing outdoors. He got a case of Melanoma as a result. Here's his telling of his beating that disease. And when you go out, please put on sunscreen.

 

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