Riding to win all three grand tours in one season...

Hinault on grand tour challenge: ‘It is possible’

The Frenchman says the UCI WorldTour calendar provides ample time to recover between the grand tours

MILAN (VN) — Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has the capability of racing all three grand tours in 2015 according to the experts, but he remains unconvinced of the idea.

“The current calendar provides more space for recovery between one tour and another,” five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault said Monday night. “For this reason exactly, I think it is possible to race as a challenger not only in the Giro and the Tour, but also in the Vuelta.”

Nibali met with Hinault, Felice Gimondi, and Francesco Moser at the Conegliano Gran Gala Monday evening. They celebrated Nibali’s 2014 Tour de France win, the first time an Italian has won the race since Marco Pantani in 1998.

The hot topic of the evening was Oleg Tinkov’s grand tour challenge. The Russian businessman and owner of Tinkoff-Saxo offered 1 million Euros, or $1.3 million, to his rider Alberto Contador, Nibali, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Chris Froome (Sky) if they would ride the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and the Vuelta a España in 2015. They can fight for the prize or split it four ways, 250,000 euros each.

Tinkov renewed his challenge Monday with a press release from his team. As expected, team manager Bjarne Riis gave the idea his blessing.

“I believe Alberto Contador can aim at the podium in all three grand tours in one season and I think he has the capacity to do it,” Riis said.

“Nevertheless, I think that extraordinary physical capacity alone will not be enough. It is a very important factor but a rider needs three more crucial elements: The ability to recover between races, the mental strength, and a perfect preparation and planning of the season.”

The subject created a discussion last night in Conegliano, nestled in northeast Italy.

“Can you do all three these days? I say you can do the Giro, Tour, and Vuelta, and then the worlds, as well,” Hinault explained.

“The Giro, three weeks of rest; the Tour, three weeks of rest; and the Vuelta. If there was a hard worlds course following it, he could win that, too.”

Besides the 2014 Tour, Nibali won the 2013 Giro and the 2010 Vuelta. He is only one of six riders in history to have won all three grand tours. No cyclist has done so in the same year, even when the Vuelta used to fall in the spring instead of in its current August/September slot.

“Your head has to be in it,” Astana’s team manager Giuseppe Martinelli said. “I carefully watched Nibali at the Tour de France this July and he astonished me every day with how calmly he managed the responsibility and tension. He had the yellow jersey, but it was as if he didn’t have it given how calm and secure of himself he was.”

Astana’s general manager Alexandre Vinokourov is planning to send 22-year-old Fabio Aru to the Giro d’Italia and Nibali to the Tour de France to defend his title in 2015.

Nibali explained that he would like to race the Giro d’Italia, but doing so would not allow him to race the Tour in top form. He brushed off Tinkov’s idea.

“To race both the Giro and Tour in top condition is practicably impossible,” Nibali said.

Last week, Nibali told Tutti Bici that racing to win all three grand tours in one year would be “inhumane” and that offering 1 million euros was a way to make Tinkov look good in front of others.

Nibali will decide his 2015 schedule with Astana at its training camp in November. The team managers of the four riders are due to meet at the Tour de France presentation October 22 in Paris to discuss the idea.