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Chris Froome sent shockwaves through the cycling world on Wednesday when he announced plans to race the 2018 Giro d’Italia. He will attempt to hold all grand tour titles at once and become the first rider to win the fabled Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998. This is an absolute masterstroke by Froome and exactly the type of charm campaign the Briton needs to finally win over skeptical fans.
Froome is criticized for being a boring, methodical rider who lacks versatility. Team Sky and Froome have an often contentious relationship with the media that has only helped cement this negative reputation. I believe that the Giro-Tour double has potential to charm the haters. No matter whether he succeeds or not, it is the perfect solution to transform Froome’s public perception.
The thing is, any perceived “risk” of failing at the double isn’t a real risk. I think that failure would only help boost his image and profile.
Scenario one: He wins both the Giro and the Tour, he would have his name etched in cycling history and would have to be considered one of the all-time greats.
Scenario two: He wins the Giro and fades in the Tour de France (likely, since all who won the Giro have lost the Tour since 1998). That means we will get the rare treat of Froome racing from behind. He will be a maverick who went down swinging and raced with aggression and panache. Cycling fans love a fading star who takes big chances to make up for their waning powers (Exhibit A: Alberto Contador. Exhibit B: Tom Boonen).
Scenario three: He fails at both races. Regardless, he will line up for the 2018 Tour de France as an underdog and fan favorite for taking a tilt at the Giro. He may squander a record-tying fifth Tour victory this season, but in 2019 he will be 34 years old, still two years younger than the oldest Tour de France winner. I bet he would be able to eke out a fifth victory before retirement.
The only thing that I see stopping Froome in 2018 at the Tour de France is misfortune in the chaotic first week, especially the brutal cobblestone-ridden stage 9. However, an ill-timed flat or crash could happen regardless of if he races the Giro. Why not take a shot at immortality (and increased net worth) while he has the chance?
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Since the announcement, some have said Chris Froome is exhibiting hubris and greed with this double attempt. Greed? Maybe. Hubris? No way — that takes willful ignorance. I think Froome knows exactly what he is doing by taking on this challenge. He realizes that he is simply better in grand tours than his competitors. This is his chance to boost his legacy before victories stop coming so easily. Plus, I imagine he won’t have trouble making room in his bank account for the reported 2 million euro start fee from the Giro organizers.
Sure, he might not truly need the 2 million euro bonus (if it even exists). But pro cyclists have short earning windows. When Froome looks around his Monaco neighborhood, I would guess that he wants to cash in while he still can.
I truly believe that Froome possesses the necessary talent and the mental and physical strength to handle the strain to win both the Giro and Tour. No one in the current peloton possesses superior skill in both time trialing and climbing, not to mention a team that can control a race from start to finish. He won the 2015 and 2017 Tours; both editions had the fewest individual TT kilometers in modern history and featured stages designed to foil him and Sky. While his 2017 margin of victory was less than a minute, and he suffered numerous mechanicals during key moments, the race never looked out of his control.
Chris Froome has the ability and team support to make history while rewriting his own story. His decision to make a run for this historic feat isn’t folly, it’s a stroke of genius.
Don’t agree with this take? Read about why Froome’s Giro-Tour double could spoil the Tour >>