The weather, the falls or an improbable external event… At the start of the 107th edition of the Tour of Italy, Saturday May 4, in Venaria Reale, on the outskirts of Turin, Tadej Pogacar’s opponents can be found elsewhere than in the current peloton , as he is the huge favorite of the event he is competing in for the first time.

From this Saturday until May 26, the 25-year-old Slovenian will mainly battle with the only riders from the past who have achieved his 2024 goal: winning the Giro and the Tour de France in the same year. Seven great names in cycling have already succeeded in this sequence which defies the rules of physiology: Fausto Coppi (1949 and 1952), Jacques Anquetil (1964), Eddy Merckx (1970, 1972 and 1974), Bernard Hinault (1982 and 1985), Stephen Roche (1987), Miguel Indurain (1992 and 1993) and Marco Pantani, in 1998, the year when the Tour de France suffered the explosion of the Festina doping affair.

“The road is very long, it’s quite a challenge, but the objective is very clear,” Pogacar told the media in recent days. With seven victories (including Liège-Bastogne-Liègne and the Strade Bianche) in ten races this season, an exceptional ratio, Pogacar is approaching this Giro with undisguised appetite and confidence.

Becoming “the best ever”

The leader of the UAE Emirates team says he wants to “check off” “all” the biggest races on his list and aspires to become nothing less than “the best of all time”. An ounce of caution hits him, however, as he looks at the Tour of Italy route map: “So much can happen in three weeks. There will perhaps be less stress than in the Tour de France, but I expect bad weather, difficult stages and long climbs. »

From the first stage (140 kilometers between Venaria Reale and Turin), this Saturday, Pogacar could have the opportunity to put on the leader’s pink jersey, thanks to an uneven profile which corresponds to his explosiveness. “That’s not the main objective,” he adds. It’s about being in pink in Rome [on May 26]. At the beginning, you should already see how the legs are. But if the opportunity to win a stage or take the pink jersey presents itself, you have to seize it. »

Pogacar’s enthusiasm, his tendency to want to knock out the competition at the first opportunity, even if they appear at an unreasonable distance from the finish line, is the subject that challenges the veterans of the peloton. “The Giro-Tour double is very difficult to achieve,” says Spaniard Miguel Indurain. You have to know how to measure your efforts. » “You have to be perfect for 21 days, 20 is not enough. One bad day can change everything,” also warns Italian Vincenzo Nibali, winner of the Tour in 2014 and the Giro in 2013 and 2016.

In this context of undivided domination, there are some of them who want to fight for the crumbs that the young Slovenian wants to leave them. The Australian Ben O’Connor (Décathlon-AG2R La Mondiale), the Briton Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) and the Frenchman Romain Bardet (DSM) aim to get on the final podium. Two other tricolors, Christophe Laporte (Visma-Lease a bike) and Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step), are aiming for one or more stage victories.

In front of their television, the Dane Jonas Vingegaard, the Belgian Remco Evenepoel and the Slovenian Primoz Roglic, all victims of falls at the start of the season, will cross their fingers that the success promised to the leader of the UAE Emirates team will be less easy than expected. If they recover from their various fractures, they will be the ones who will try to thwart Pogacar’s plans for a double during the next Tour de France (June 29-July 21).