Tadej Pogačar at the Volta a Catalunya.

Tadej Pogačar makes it look easy in Catalunya, but assures us that it’s not

Pogačar has taken a big lead through three stages.

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 20.03.2024 More from Dane +

For the second straight day at the Volta a Catalunya, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) soloed to a mountaintop victory with a big gap to the rest of the field, winning the third stage to Port Ainé 48 seconds ahead of Mikel Landa (Soudal-QuickStep). Pogačar has certainly made it look easy over the past two stages, but at least he’s not saying it this time.

“It definitely wasn’t easy,” he said after the stage, and just a few days after offering a different opinion of Milan-San Remo. “It’s a really hard climb, also at altitude, and I definitely felt cold during the top, not enough oxygen. It was super hard.”

All those things sound reasonable enough – the hors categorie Port Ainé climb finishes at just under 2000 meters of elevation and it’s been chilly in Pyrenees – but Pogačar’s gap at the finish and his GC advantage over well over two minutes certainly suggest that his rivals in the race aren’t capable of challenging him. To Landa’s credit, the Spaniard at least gave it a go on the lower slopes of the climb on Wednesday before Pogačar bridged to him and then left him behind.

“It was Mikel Landa who attacked first so I just went over him because I saw that he had already made a gap,” Pogačar said. “I was thinking it was maybe too early but I found a good rhythm and until the last two kilometers I could still push good. The last two kilometers, I was a bit stuck, but I still managed to finish well.”

Landa ultimately finished as runner-up for the second straight day.

At this point, Pogačar’s lead in Catalunya already seems unassailable barring catastrophe, an indication of just how much stronger he is than the field, although none of Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike), Primož Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe), or Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) are in attendance.

That’s not to say that the Catalunya field lacks talent, with plenty of big names on the start list, but it is another piece of evidence that, for now, the list of riders capable of mounting a real challenge to those GC stars at the top is a short one.

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