Tadej Pogačar crosses the finish line on stage 17 of the 2023 Tour de France. He has a hollow, vacant expression and his jersey is unzipped as teammate Marc Soler lays an arm across his shoulders in consolation.

Let’s not crown Pogačar King of Italy just yet

Remember: when all the experts and forecasts agree, something else is bound to happen.

Joe Lindsey
by Joe Lindsey 03.05.2024 Photography by
Gruber Images
More from Joe +

Apparently from what I read on the interwebz, the Giro d’Italia, which starts Saturday, is already over. 

Betting markets have established Tadej Pogačar as the overwhelming favorite, at nearly half the odds to the next highest-rated rider in the race (2023 runner-up Geraint Thomas). Romain Bardet is an even more-distant third. Yes, the GC field at this year’s Giro looks lean. But those are remarkable gaps considering Thomas is a former Tour de France champion himself.

Pogačar’s UAE Emirates team has responded to questions about whether the Slovenian could lead wire-to-wire. It is currently stage -1 and there are stories about whether Pogačar can accomplish the fabled Giro-Tour de France double, not done since the sainted Marco Pantani all the way back in 1998.

To which I say: again, it is stage -1.

To which I also say: are you familiar with the Giro d’Italia?

If I may tweak a classic line from a classic movie: You fool! You just fell for one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” But only slightly less well-known is “Never expect the Giro d’Italia to go according to plan!”

Tadej Pogačar bows theatrically as he crosses the line to win stage 6 of the 2023 Tour de France. The shot is filmed on the right half with a yellow haze, as if to suggest a yellow jersey.
People seem to be forgetting that to have a shot at the Giro-Tour double, Pogačar first has to actually win the Giro.

Let’s look at last year’s edition for guidance.

Remco Evenepoel destroyed the opening time trial and held a decent lead after the race’s first week. But by the first rest day he was out entirely with Covid-19 (yes, it’s still around). Another top contender, Tao Geoghegan Hart, looked to be in fantastic shape before crashing out with a fractured hip.

One of the race’s signature mountain stages got shortened by more than half due to weather, taking out a key opportunity for climbers to make a major mark on the overall. 

And of course on the second to last day, Primož Roglič had the time trial of his sweet life to claw back 30 seconds on Geraint Thomas and take a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

One year not enough of a sample size?

OK, fine. Here are the top three riders for sports betting odds for the last five editions, and the race’s eventual winner. Notice anything?

YearTop oddsWinner
2023Evenepoel, Roglič, Geoghegan HartRoglič
2022Carapaz, S. Yates, AlmeidaHindley (12th best odds)
2021Bernal, S. Yates, EvenepoelBernal
2020Thomas, S. Yates, FuglsangGeoghegan Hart (not listed in odds)
2019Roglič, Dumoulin, S. YatesCarapaz (not listed in odds)

Even in years where a favorite does win, it often comes in surprising ways: Roglič’s superlative TT, or Chris Froome’s daring raid in 2018, for example. Steven Kruijswijk’s snowbank adventure, anyone? Does the nickname “Tom Dumpoulin” ring any bells? All of that happened in the last decade.

Final point of evidence: you know who’s not buying all this talk? Pogačar. Yes, he’s the prohibitive favorite. Yes, I have him on my fantasy team. But in typical memelord fashion, Pog pushed back at the idea, and has also noted it’s disrespectful to the other riders in the field.

Listen, if I knew for sure what would happen in the Giro d’Italia, I wouldn’t be writing it here; I’d be placing large sums of money on prop bets with an online sportsbook because, while I don’t like gambling, I don’t like leaving free money on the table even more.

Maybe the 2024 Giro will be a snoozefest. Walkover. Coronation. But I’m reminded of an aphorism from the investing world that often translates to sports: when all the experts and forecasts agree, something else is bound to happen.

Buckle up.

What did you think of this story?