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Monte Carpegna, could you think of a better winner?

12/03/2022

Monte Carpegna is an iconic climb. Not because great riders have won there, not because it has witnessed a number of iconic battles, and not because the Giro d’Italia has often visited this peak. In fact, almost 50 years have passed since the last time the Pink Race ended a stage in Carpegna: it was 1974 and the winner was Belgian Patrick Sercu, who incidentally had also won the year before on the same finish line. Then, in 2008, the caravan of the Giro visited this mountain again in a transition stage won by Alessandro Bertolini, but the beauty of this climb went almost unnoticed.

So why is Monte Carpegna so famous? Simply said, it is the climb where Marco Pantani – the man who, according to many Italians, is the unquestionable symbol of this sport – used to train. “That’s where I started to build my victories. I don’t need to try all the big climbs one by one before a Giro or a Tour. The Carpegna is enough for me,” the Pirate used to say.

Former Italian national team coach Davide Cassani, another Romagnolo who shared lots of memories with Marco, often tested himself on these slopes. The climb is not long but has an average gradient of 10%. “Marco was younger than me, we did a few climbs together when I was about to retire. He was in front, and I was watching from behind. He was superlative on the climbs, it was normal for him to overtake everyone. As a matter of fact, he loved starting last: for him to catch us, say goodbye and wait for us at the Cippo was the best thing”, Cassani recalled a few years ago.

Tadej Pogačar‘s rivals must have had a similar thought today at the Tirreno-Adriatico, when on the second and final climb of Monte Carpegna the Slovenian reignited the turbo that he has practically always kept warm in this first part of the season. On the Pirata climb, in front of many Pirata fans, Tadej was the best possible winner. Pogačar, despite the understandable differences of two quite distant historical periods, is the rider who most resembles Pantani in the way he interprets the race. Little calculation, a lot of heart, a great show to offer the fans and an unparalleled ability to climb.

Tadej is on his way to becoming one of the strongest cyclists in history. After all, it was the strongest cyclist in history, Eddy Merckx, who said so himself: “Every year I hear people say that this or that rider is the new Merckx, without any real reason to be so. With Tadej, though, I think we’re really there…” said the Cannibal after the Slovenian’s victory at Il Lombardia.

Pogačar, like Merckx, is also starting to cannibalise races with some consistency. He will win this Tirreno-Adriatico with almost two minutes on the second. Not bad for a seven-day stage race.

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