FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The Giro d’Italia victory is bound to take its toll on Chris Froome come July when he faces off with Tour de France rivals who have been specifically training for the season’s biggest race.
Giuseppe Martinelli orchestrated the last successful Giro/Tour double ride in 1998, 20 years ago, with the late Marco Pantani. He questions whether the feat is still possible.
Since 1998, few cyclists have tried, and all have failed.
“The Giro takes so much energy, in today’s age [winning the double is] almost impossible,” Martinelli told VeloNews. “I think if anyone can, Chris Froome can do it.”
A small number of riders have won both of the famous grand tours in the same season: Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Stephen Roche, Miguel Indurain, and Marco Pantani.
In recent years or “in today’s age,” cycling is much more targeted. Some riders will build their seasons around the March/April classics, others will peak for the Giro and the Vuelta a España, and others for the Tour with perhaps the Vuelta as an afterthought.
When the bald Italian climber, known as ‘Il Pirata’ made a raid on the 1998 Tour de France he found limited competition. He had to deal with Jan Ullrich, but the Festina Affair had seen some riders and teams ejected as the race made its way to Paris.
Pantani died of a cocaine overdose in 2004. High hematocrit anti-doping tests indicating EPO use marred his career. One controversial test forced him out of the 1999 Giro while he was in the race lead.
Cycling’s grand tour stars Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana attempted the double recently without success.
Contador won the 2015 Giro and placed fifth in the Tour behind Froome, taking his second title. “I came out of the Giro tired,” Contador said. “I was fresh mentally, very motivated, but my body was still tired.”
In 2017, Quintana placed second in the Giro behind Tom Dumoulin and suffered in the Tour, ending up 12th. He said after one week in the Tour, “I’m starting to lack strength having already put in a huge effort [in the Giro].”
Froome has an extra week between the Giro and Tour this year. The Tour was pushed back to avoid a scheduling conflict with soccer’s World Cup. Instead of racing as he would normally do in June, he is recovering and training specifically for the Tour.
His rivals instead spent time at altitude in May and raced, tuning themselves specifically for the three weeks in July.
Froome top rivals include Mikel Landa, Nairo Quintana (both Movistar), Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First-Drapac). Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) raced to second place in the Giro d’Italia and added the Tour to his program, but not with the specific double aim.
“Moreover, you are racing against rivals who prepared specifically for the Tour while you were in the Giro,” Martinelli added.
“You can’t have that same condition that they have. It’s not the two peaks, but how high the peak is for your rival in the Tour. It won’t be the same as yours.
“Froome, if he goes to the Tour, he’ll be one of the favorites, but it’s not like before.”
If Froome won, he would also tie the Tour record of five yellow jerseys. It would come on the heels of a history-making Giro d’Italia ride that saw him ride alone to victory in stage 19 and into the overall lead.
Not since Fausto Coppi in 1949 had cycling seen a grand tour star go on such a long solo attack to claim the race lead and the eventual overall win. Team Sky dropped Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) on the Colle delle Finestre and Froome escaped with 80.3 kilometers remaining to recoup a 3:22-minute deficit and take the pink jersey. Two days later, he won in Rome.
“Is it going to cost me in the Tour? That’s a good question and we might not find out until we get to July,” Froome said.
“I am optimistic. Given that I arrived at the Giro not necessarily 100 percent unlike some of my rivals and that I built into the race. I feel like that I will be able to recover from this.
“As we’ve seen in the past, it is a very difficult undertaking. I believe it is possible.”