Seven cyclists won both grand tours in the same season, but no one has been able to do so in the modern era. From the 1950s to 1990s they succeeded, but since “Il Pirata” Marco Pantani won in Paris in 1998, the double has remained out of reach.
“I definitely believe it’s possible. Maybe not this year!” Froome said.
“This is my fourth grand tour on the run now, so to be in this position is incredible. I’ve won the last three and I’m still fighting for the podium.”
Nothing should be taken away from Froome’s ride, only that in this Tour he is not at the same Froome level that saw him win four titles so far.
After the 2017 win, he went on to win the 2017 Vuelta a España and the 2018 Giro d’Italia this May. His plan aim was the Giro/Tour double. He seemed a little off and suffered from crashes, but fired back with an 80.3-kilometre solo attack in stage 19.
“Who knows what I’m tired from,” Froome responded when asked if he was feeling the Giro’s effects. “It’s stage 18 of the Tour de France, I’m tired.”
Froome and the team tailored his year around the double. He planned to arrive at his best in the last week of the Giro and follow it with a specific training block in June. Instead of racing, he rested for a few days, trained at altitude and previewed Tour stages in June.
He suffered from a crash and 51-second-loss in stage 1 of the Tour but sat second overall in the mountains until stage 17 Wednesday. Froome faded at three kilometers remaining — and so did the chance of someone matching Pantani and the others who have won the double.
“It’s difficult,” said Philippe Mauduit, sports director at Team UAE who also worked with Alberto Contador when he tried the double in 2015.
Contador won the Giro that year and placed seventh in the Tour. Last year, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) tried, placing second in the Giro and 12th in the Tour.
“Tom Dumoulin is there, second in the Giro and second place now, but not super-fresh to try something,” Mauduit added. “We also have to consider that this year that they had one week more of recovery, which should have made it a little bit easier. For me, it’s still impossible.”
“It has been shown again this year that the Giro/Tour double is hard,” said Paolo Slongo, Bahrain-Merida sport director and coach for Vincenzo Nibali.
“It’s not impossible. I’m confident a rider like Nibali could do it. He could try one day, I don’t know if it’s possible already in 2019. But the double is possible only for a few riders.
“Froome’s not with the best in the climbs. That added to the minute he lost in stage 1. And to have Thomas flying, that’s compromised his chance.”
Many say that modern cycling rules out the chance of arriving on the top step of both the Italian and French grand tours. Those who race the Giro pay when they face off with riders who trained at altitude camps in May and built specifically for the Tour.
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“I think we’ll see it done. Maybe next year or in two year’s time,” Sky sport director Nicolas Portal said.
“You can miscalculate when you are a machine, but they are humans. Their bodies are so complex. We have coaches and scientists, but then they are only relying on their bodies. Maybe it’s fuelling, hydration, or like you said, maybe he’s starting to pay the price after the Giro.”
Froome still believes that he could have had a chance had he not lost the little bit of time in the final three kilometers of stage 17.
“It’s nothing like that,” he responded when asked if the stage 1 crash and loss ruled him out. “I just had a bad day yesterday.”
Dumoulin could complete a double of his own with a Tour second place to add to the Giro’s runner-up spot. Much could still change in the final mountain day and stage 20 time trial.
“I’ll let you know in two days what I think,” Dumoulin said. “Maybe I’ll have a bad day and I can’t hold the form. If I would be second in both events, then it shows a rider can win them both.”