Pogacar dominates first Giro d'Italia, eyes Tour de France double. GETTY IMAGES

The Slovenian won his debut in the Corsa Rosa with a 9:56 lead over Daniel Felipe Martínez after an absolute exhibition. His six stage wins, five of them in the leader's jersey, and his overwhelming superiority equalled Eddy Merckx's 1973 record. Now he will have three weeks to rest. Then he will try to repeat his victory in the Tour de France.

"Tadej? He's Superman," said Rafal Majka, the Slovenian's loyal teammate in the UAE team. The Pole is right. It may seem unbelievable, but if it isn't, it's close. This Giro d'Italia is the most perfect example of a stage race script ever followed. Everyone knew that Tadej Pogacar would win, and that he would do it with ease. Even his rivals knew it. 

However, to do so with a 10-minute lead over the second placed rider and with six stage wins, five of them in the pink jersey, goes beyond what anyone expected. The image that sums up his first victory in the Corsa Rosa is that of him on Saturday climbing the Grappa, giving a bidon to a child and laughing at the TV cameras while his rivals struggled two minutes behind. Dominant. Pogacar triumphs and rests. Only he can do that.

"I felt very strong, very comfortable on the bike during the three weeks. I can draw good conclusions. After a good rest on the beach, I hope to be able to build from here and continue to progress," said the Slovenian in a press conference. That is the question for his rivals. Will he have time to rest before the Tour? Has he pushed himself to the limit?

The podium of the Giro d'Italia next to the Colosseum in Rome: Pogacar, Daniel Felipe, and Geraint Thomas. GETTY IMAGES
The podium of the Giro d'Italia next to the Colosseum in Rome: Pogacar, Daniel Felipe, and Geraint Thomas. GETTY IMAGES

"I'm going to stop completely for a few days, relax and then gradually start again. I'll try to keep the same legs and improve if possible," he added.

Pogacar's triumph belongs to another era. So much so that it equals Eddy Merckx's Giro victory in 1973. However, the Cannibal did not win by such a margin. He beat Felice Gimondi by 7:52 minutes. In that respect he surpasses the Belgian. Pogacar is 9'56" ahead of Daniel Felipe Martínez (Bora), the widest gap since 1965. He is 10'24" ahead of Geraint Thomas (Ineos), who was the 'mortal' but could do nothing about the Slovenian. It is the biggest gap between first and second in 59 years.

'Pogi' is 25 years old and has already won six Monuments and two Tour de France titles. Although the Belgian myth still has a long way to go, anything is possible. He doesn't compete, he has fun, which makes him unpredictable.

Perhaps the most telling comparison with Merckx is the helplessness of his rivals fighting for second place. It's an overwhelming dominance. Only one rider has stood up to him and found his kryptonite: Jonas Vingegaard. The Dane has beaten him in the Tour on all terrains

However, in 2024, his heavy crash in the Tour of the Basque Country makes him a doubt for the Grand Boucle. He's going to start, but who knows how he'll fare. The Dane is the only rival, with the permission of Primoz Roglic and Remco Evenepoel, who could threaten Pogacar's double. Vingegaard, and the possibility that the effort will take its toll and make him human in the French mountains.

"I wanted to finish the Giro on a high note and in good shape. I've never been to Rome and I'm going to enjoy it," said Pogacar after his triumph in Grappa. The last of the six, last Saturday, was the last chance for his rivals to collapse. It was the only way to beat Pogacar. "It is exceptional. Today I wanted to win the stage, but there was nothing I could do." Martínez, second on the Grappa, admitted.

Pogacar lifts his bike this Sunday upon arriving in Rome. An indisputable victory. GETTY IMAGES
Pogacar lifts his bike this Sunday upon arriving in Rome. An indisputable victory. GETTY IMAGES

The UAE team leader won after attacking 35 kilometres from the finish of a mountain stage that included a double climb of the magnificent but difficult Monte Grappa. Saturday's stage did all this. However unlikely, it was the last one where anything could happen. Rome was a triumphal procession for everyone.

The Giro, in which Pogacar has been celebrating since the first day he arrived in Turin, has left behind more than just Pogacar's victory. Even if it seems unbelievable. Jonathan Milan (Lidl Trek) was the fastest in the sprints; Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal) found his form again and showed it with a stage win. 

The young talents Einer Rubio and Pelayo Sánchez (Movistar) showed their quality with a top-ten finish in the general classification and a stage win each; Filippo Ganna (Ineos) finally won in his speciality, the time trial, beating Pogacar in one but not the Slovenian in the other. Geraint Thomas (Ineos), at 38, is still a podium contender in the grand tours after winning the Tour de France in 2018 and finishing second to Roglic in the Giro d'Italia in 2023.

So the protagonist of the story emerges even stronger after all that has happened in Italy. "Pogacar is the best rider I've ever raced against, and I've known a few good ones," said Geraint Thomas, winner of the Tour de France and a former teammate of Chris Froome, who has four in his record. Nothing more, nothing less.

Pogacar will now focus on preparing for his biggest challenge of the season: Winning the Giro and Tour de France back-to-back, something no rider has done since Marco Pantani in 1998.

The UAE rider is just 25 years old. He has already won 77 races. Pogacar can now concentrate on winning the big Italian and French races back-to-back. No rider has done this since Marco Pantani in 1998. "Of course he can do the Giro-Tour double. He's so strong. I'm proud to be his teammate," said Austrian Felix Grossschartner.