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Froome aims for unique triple after Tour, Vuelta wins

Chris Froome is aiming for a unique triple crown with confirmation Tuesday that he will race the individual time trial at the Bergen world championships September 20.

Hot off winning the Tour de France and Vuelta a España in succession, Froome is taking aim at what would be another first.

No one has ever won back-to-back grand tours and then won the rainbow jersey in the individual time trial. Froome believes he might be able to do it.

“I still have a lot of motivation,” Froome said after winning the Vuelta on Sunday. “There is still a lot I want to achieve in the sport.”

On Wednesday, Team Sky also confirmed that Froome will ride as part of the team time trial effort among the trade teams Sunday.

It’s a new challenge for Froome, who became the first rider to achieve the Tour-Vuelta double in that order since the Spanish grand tour moved to late summer in 1995.

Why his interest this year? He’s on top form, and it’s one of the major titles that’s so far eluded him. But most importantly, the course tilts away from the pure power specialists like four-time world champion Tony Martin or 2015 winner Vasil Kiryienka.

At only 31 kilometers, the course is relatively short, but it ends with an exclamation point. What makes the otherwise undulating route so tempting for Froome is the finale. The last 3.4km is straight up Mount Fløyen, with an average grade of 9.1 percent. Some ramps are steeper than 10 percent.

If he can win the world title, it would be another first for Froome, who also became the first British rider to win the Vuelta.

The ITT was introduced as a world championship event in 1994, meaning that such cycling stars as Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault never had a chance to race for the stripes against the clock.

Since its introduction, only Marco Pantani in 1998 and Alberto Contador in 2008 won two grand tours in the same season. Neither raced the time trial worlds following their respective doubles.

Cycling’s true triple crown — winning the Giro d’Italia, Tour, and the road race world title in the same season — has only be achieved twice. Eddy Merckx did it 1974 and Stephen Roche in 1987. A few came close, including Miguel Indurain, who pulled off the double in 1993 and finished second in the road race.

On eight other occasions, riders won either the Giro or Tour and the world road race title, but not a second grand tour victory.

Many say a modern-day triple crown — two grand tours and the road title — is nearly impossible.

Grand tour riders rarely shine on the classics-style circuit courses featured for most road race courses, and vice versa. Two-time world champion Peter Sagan won’t be winning the Tour anytime soon, and Froome isn’t even starting the road race this year.

The closest over the past 10 years at least in terms of versatility was Cadel Evans, who won the 2009 road title, and the 2011 Tour.

Can Froome do it? The Bergen course is perfect for Froome’s blend of efficient time trialing skills and climbing prowess. His top rivals will be Tom Dumoulin, Stefan Küng, Rohan Dennis, and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Froome hasn’t raced the worlds since 2014, and has never medaled in the individual time trial. He has done well in international competition against the clock, however, winning Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016, as well as finishing fifth at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

If Froome manages to win the time trial, he would own one more page of cycling history. Call it the post-modern triple crown.

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