Tadej Pogačar holds up a V for victory on stage 21.

Giro stage 21 report: Pogačar crowned as Merlier covers distance to Rome quicker than Milan

A Giro defined by GC and sprinting dominance comes to a close in Rome.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 27.05.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Tadej Pogačar confirmed what many had assumed when his name was first announced for the 2024 Giro d’Italia start list, bringing the maglia rosa to the final stage 21 finish line in Rome as Tim Merlier bested Jonathan Milan to draw level on three bunch sprint wins each this race.

What many would have also predicted, but were still amazed by, was the daring and guile with which Pogačar both choked and animated the Grand Tour, a spectacle not often seen in such a dominant performance.

UAE Team Emirates hold Tadej Pogačar at the stage 21 sign-on.

Special, pink-shouldered jerseys were rolled off the press for a Lampre-resembling UAE Team Emirates squad looking to respond to a 2023 Grand Tour campaign closed out entirely by Visma-Lease a Bike. Really, what this display now lays out is an enticing Tour de France contest between an injury-marred Dutch squad, a Tour novice in Remco Evenepoel, a Red Bull-infused Primož Roglič, and a Pogačar now looking to do the double.

But back to Rome, with one stage still to play for and a slim chance for the 13 teams who’ll come away with zero victories this Giro to end on a high. For the GC race, rarely is a processional stage so … processional. As the squads circulated to the front for their ‘I survived the Pogačar Giro’ photographical mementos, the Slovenian and his UAE teammates held two fingers aloft – a V for Victory or an indication of intent that the job is only half done?

The peloton pass the Colosseum.

On the road returning the peloton to the Italian capital after heading south-westwards to the coast, the cavalry arrived just in time for the maglia ciclamino, Lidl-Trek’s Jonathan Milan, who required a bike change with less than 10 kilometres to go and delivering back into the fold before it was too late.

But no matter how vigorously Milan bobbed his head in the charge for the finish line, the triple-stage-winning points classification winner had his three stage victories equalled by the Belgian Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quick Step), who was seemingly pulled ahead of the bunch gallop as if on an invisible piece of string to cap off a fine three weeks of racing for his team.



Brief analysis:

Note: An earlier version of this article omitted Primož Roglič from the list of GC Tour de France contenders. We apologise profusely for this negligent oversight.

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