Giro leader Tadej Pogacar wins his third stage in the first week

PRATO DI TIVO, Italy (AP) — Tadej Pogacar's command of the Giro d’Italia earned him a third stage win on Saturday in just the first week.

Pogacar was first to Prato di Tivo on the summit finish of the eighth stage, the hardest of the race so far.

The Slovenian cyclist had time — and energy — to raise his arms in celebration as he crossed the line, edging out Daniel Martinez and Ben O’Connor in a sprint to add more seconds to his already considerable lead.

“I was not expecting it at all today,” Pogacar said. “But as a team we rode super well from the beginning and we come with a good time gap to the last climb. And the team did a super good job to the finish."

Pogacar blew everyone away in Friday’s time trial to strengthen his grip on the pink jersey, and has extended his advantage to 2 minutes, 40 seconds over Martinez. Last year’s runner-up Geraint Thomas was 2:58 behind.

It is the biggest advantage this early in the Giro since 2002.

The race hit the high mountains of the Apennines and the stage was rated five stars for maximum difficulty.

It featured the race’s second uphill finish — a top-category climb of more than 14 kilometers (nine miles) to Prato di Tivo — and the riders were constantly ascending or descending, with no flat sectors on the 152-kilometer (94-mile) route from Spoleto that also included two other categorized climbs.

“The teammates wanted to go for the stage win as soon as we survived the first long categorized climb," said Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates.

"They did a super good job until the final climb. And then, at the bottom when I see that our guys are still good, I was confident that we can win today.”

UAE Team Emirates controlled the pace of the peloton, preventing a 14-man breakaway from grabbing any insurmountable advantage. The gap came down from a maximum of around 2:30 to just 35 seconds at the start of the final climb.

Pogacar was led up by his teammates and, while his own expected attack never materialized, he was immediately on the wheel of any others to set himself up for the final sprint.

“They're just incredible,” Thomas said. “Hats off to them today because they pulled hard and they really set it up for Tadej. And he does what he does.”

Sunday’s ninth stage is a 214-kilometer (133-mile) route from Avezzano to Napoli that features just one fourth-category climb. It is the second longest day of this Giro and comes just before the race’s first rest day.

The Giro ends in Rome on May 26.


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