Tadej Pogačar has confirmed, once again, everything that we thought we knew.

The Slovenian cyclist is, quite simply, a freak.

By winning the 2024 Giro d’Italia in such emphatic fashion, the 25-year-old wrote himself into the mystic annals of a sport that craves the romantic more than any other.

On the face of it though, there is little to be misty-eyed about.

Pogačar’s winning margin of nine minutes and 56 seconds is borderline obscene.

Not since Jan Ullrich won the 1997 Tour de France by nine minutes and nine seconds has a rider claimed victory at a grand tour by over nine minutes.

In fact, Pogačar’s winning margin is the biggest at a grand tour since Laurent Fignon won the 1984 Tour by 10:32, the largest at a Giro since Vittorio Adorni in 1965.

His six stage wins is the most by a Giro general classification winner since Eddie Merckx did the same in 1973.

‘The best I’ve raced with’: Thomas

Tadej Pogacar waves to the crowd

Tadej Pogačar has delighted crowds across Italy with his panache on the bike.(AP Photo: LaPresse/Gian Mattia D’Alberto)

Pogačar may have just sealed his third grand tour, but in truth, the Slovenian racks up wins for fun across multiple disciplines and race-types.

He already has six one day Monument victories that has led to some branding him the second coming of Merckx, the most versatile rider of the past half century.

While Merckx was called the Cannibal for his insatiable appetite for victories, Pogačar has been christened the Cannibale Gentile by Gazetta della Sport, the gentle cannibal.

“For me he’s the best I’ve raced with I think,” said third-placed finisher and peloton veteran Geraint Thomas.

“And I’ve raced with a lot of good guys.”

The 38-year-old sure has, counting among his one-time teammates five-time Olympic gold medal winner and 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, seven-time grand tour winner Chris Froome and the greatest grand tour sprinter in history, Mark Cavendish.

Thomas, who celebrated his 38th birthday on Saturday’s penultimate stage is also a contemporary rival of seven-time grand tour winner Alberto Contador and four-time winner, Primož Roglič.

Tadej Pogacar rides away from other riders

Tadej Pogačar can ride away from his rivals in the mountains at will and with consumate ease.(Getty Images: Dario Belingheri)

“He’s [Pogačar’s] just so versatile and aggressive, and all year round as well.

“It’s not just – well, like me, for a couple of months a year where you’re good. It’s insane how talented he is.

“The only thing is he makes us look pretty slow, but that’s the whole peloton, that’s not just me.”

Pogačar’s palmarès already rivals the very best in the sport.

When he won the first of his two Tours de France in 2020 aged 22, he was the youngest winner in 116 years.

His back-to-back victories were only halted by Jonas Vingegaard’s emergence as a grand tour specialist.

Tadej Pogacar smiles at Jonas Vingegaard

Will Jonas Vingegaard (right) be in any position to deny Tadej Pogačar a third Tour de France title this year?(Getty Images: David Ramos)

It is realistically only the Danish rider who stands between Pogačar and a feat not seen in cycling since Marco Pantani managed it in 1998, a Giro-Tour double.

Indeed, Pogačar has already emulated the Italian legend by overcoming a mechanical at the base of the climb to Santuario di Oropa on stage seven, where Pantani did the exact same thing in 1999.

Back to the present though, and two-time defending champion Vingegaard is unlikely to reach the start line in peak condition following his shocking crash earlier in the season that resulted in a collapsed lung, among other injuries.

“Jonas [Vingegaard] is the only guy that’s really on the same level as him,” Thomas said.

“But it’s yet to be seen how he is.

“The rest – of course, there’s always a chance, it’s a bike race, but on pure physical talent he’s unique.”

A three-week long coronation

Tadej Pogacar holds the Giro trophy

Tadej Pogačar has added another trophy to his growing collection.(AP Photo: Andrew Medichini)

Sunday’s celebratory procession around Rome was Pogačar’s coronation but, in truth, much of the preceding three weeks has been little more than a homage to his greatness.

Saturday’s penultimate stage was a case in point.

Pogačar burned through his teammates before embarking on a solo ascent of the Monte Grappa — during which he handed out alms in the form of bidons to young roadside admirers and high fives to others, while also chastising those others who dared reach out to him — in an astonishing display of reckless power.

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That 18km long climb, with an average gradient of 8.1 per cent was less of an obstacle to overcome and more a ramp towards his inevitable podium.

“I wanted to finish the Giro with a good mentality and in good shape. I think I achieved that,” he said at the finish.

His triumphant roll into the finish in Bassano del Grappa, during which he saluted and bowed to an adoring public like the conquering hero he has become, was a worthy tribute to a man who has lit up a race that his own dominance threatened to overshadow.

“Are you not entertained?” was Pogačar’s emphatic demand of a people who know they are witnessing majesty.

If they weren’t, they should have been.

Pogačar’s mix of dashing attacks and solo chases dared those on the roadside to equate his flamboyant dominance to that displayed by the mechanised deployment of Team Sky at the height of their powers.

Those comparisons are moot though. Never has a rider attacked so wilfully, with such regularity, and with such consummate ease over the duration of a race that will go down in history.

Former grand tour winner Sean Kelly said on Eurosport that there has never been a rider like him, “He has got everything.”

‘Pog is on a different planet’

Tadej Pogacar turns to the camera with mountains behind him

Following Tadej Pogačar into the mountains is the only option for the professional peloton.(AP: LaPresse/Marco Alpozzi)

Pogačar has held such mastery over his rivals at the Giro that he has seemingly been racing against himself — and everyone knows it.

“People were giving the GC guys and me abuse for just racing amongst ourselves,” Thomas said on his podcast, Watts Occurring, during the second week of the race.

“To put it in perspective, anyone out there that’s a runner, if your best 10k run is 40 minutes, if you start off at 30 minute pace for 20 minutes, just see what happens.

“You’re going to blow your doors off, you’re going to creep in, and you’ll do 49 minutes rather than 40.

“That’s what it was like today [on stage 15], I could try and stay with him [Pogačar], but I knew I didn’t have the legs, especially with the altitude and everything.

“You can completely blow your doors off.

“It sounds defeatist, but at the end of the day, Pog is on a different planet.”

Tour tilt on the cards

Tadej Pogacar rides with his hands up ahead of Jonas Vingegaard

Tadej Pogačar will once again target the Tour de France.(Getty Images: Michael Steele)

So who can stop this seemingly unstoppable Slovene sensation?

Three weeks is a long time to race, and the cumulative fatigue of dominating a race to the extent that he has — with the added effect of daily post-race press conferences — may yet take its toll when it comes to a mountainous Tour de France later in the year.

Then there is the scrutiny that inevitably follows the world’s best cyclist.

Cycling’s very history demands a thorough introspection about what is being witnessed.

Too often in the sport’s chequered past have things that appeared too good to be true turned out to be exactly that.

It’s why the most astonishing of performances have been met with the caveat of a raised eyebrow and knowing wink.

There’s no suggestion that what Pogačar is doing is fuelled by anything other than natural talent.

The Slovene is undisputedly a generational star. What happens next will be thrilling to watch.

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