In the mid-fall doldrums, cycling fans need all the inspiration we can muster, and thankfully, the Giro and Tour route announcements have teased the halcyon days of summer that aren’t really that far off.
The route announcements for both the Tour and the Giro have us again contemplating the elusive Giro/Tour double, which in our minds is the Mount Everest of cycling. Riders have won the two grand tours in the same year a total of 12 times, with Fausto Coppi accomplishing it first in 1949. Eddy Merckx did the double in 1970, ’72, and ’74.
We’ve heard from Chris Froome, who says he probably won’t do the Giro/Tour double, and we’ve also heard from Nairo Quintana, who’s been a little coy. Alberto Contador tried it last year (hm, that’s sort of a cautionary tale). But here’s the thing: For our money, the sport’s top GC stage racers should all try the Giro/Tour double together! Here’s our hard-hitting, fast-paced Q&A to explain why this is the best take of the fall.
1. Wait, are you crazy?
Yeah, I guess kind of, but face it, the idea has merit.
Sure, if all the top dogs agree to do the double, they’ll be on equal footing, and it avoids the risk of having a weak field in the Giro, which sometimes happens when everyone peaks for the Tour. Remember that Giro in 2012 when Thomas de Gendt was on the podium?
3. There’s no way you could convince them to do this.
First of all, that isn’t a question. Second, these guys actually race double grand tours pretty often. Take last year for example. Froome did the Tour and the Vuelta and so did Nairoman. Alejandro Valverde did all three! Nibali did the Giro and the Tour. Esteban Chaves did the Giro and the Vuelta, finishing on the podium in both.
4. OK, so what would be the value of creating this challenge?
Our sport has essentially become a game of which stage racer can get himself in the best physical condition to perform during three weeks every July (ahem, thanks Lance), and which team can build the best supporting cast around that racer. This new challenge changes the calculus dramatically. Which athlete can perform the best during three weeks in May, recover from that effort during June, and then ramp back up for three more weeks in July? Which team has the resources to protect that rider during both efforts? It stretches the energy and resources.
5. Didn’t Oleg Tinkov have this same idea?
Yep. It’s actually one of the few times he might have been right.
6. But every time a rider tries this, he always bombs one of the races.
I know, and that’s why this challenge is compelling. The Giro/Tour double has always seemed to be out of the realm of natural human ability because the athlete in question must challenge fresh riders at the Tour de France. So what if all of the guys showed up to the Tour tired?
7. Who would you invite?
OK, in my scenario, all top-5 grand tour finishers from the previous year must commit to this. So for 2017, the list would be:
Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, Esteban Chaves, Romain Bardet, Alejandro Valverde, Rafal Majka, Steven Kruijswijk, Adam Yates, Alberto Contador, Andrew Talansky. And, to be fair, I think we’ll have to get Richie Porte in there as well.
8. Porte? What about Tejay!?
Yeah, I know. Maybe next year?
9. Of the likely contenders, Froome and Quintana seem like the obvious favorites, so how does Froome pull it off?
You’re right — they both were on the podiums of the Tour and the Vuelta. Froome will need the ultimate Sky armada to guide him through the Giro…
10. Wait, you mean the Tour, right?
That’s not to say he doesn’t need a great team for the Tour, but the 2017 Giro is so tricky, so grueling, that for our money, it’ll be the harder of the two for him to win. However, the route is a bit more balanced than the usual crazy-pants Giro routes we know and love. He’ll also need show-stopping performances in the Giro’s stage 21 time trial and the Tour’s stage 20 TT — in both cases he might need to make up a little ground on the more lithe climbers.
11. You mean like Nairo?
Exactly. Nairo stands a chance to win the Giro on some of the crazy mountain stages in the final week, like stage 16, which climbs the Stelvio twice. Similarly, he could win the Tour on the Izoard. Lucky for Quintana, there are precious few TT kilometers, which gives him an edge on Froome.
12. And the other riders — who else could do the double?
Uhhh. Probably no one else.
13. Come on, really?
Okay, so if Valverde was on a different team and he had a crazy turn of good luck (i.e., Froome crashes out of both the Giro and the Tour), maybe, just maybe. Chaves seems a bit too young, but hey, you never know, and the climber-friendly routes that are good for Nairo will suit him (and also Yates). Maybe Contador? Nah, probably not. Nibali? Nope, too inconsistent.
14. What would your zany challenge teach us about pro cycling?
If we truly believe cycling has moved into a cleaner era, the Tour/Giro double presents a great unknown for our current generation of grand tour riders. Marco Pantani pulled off the double in 1998 during the height of the EPO era. Indurain’s two doubles (’92 and ’93) came during a period in which game-changing drugs were starting to seep into the sport. I love Merckx’s doubles, but that was during an era when an all-around beast could win grand Tours, cobbled classics, and worlds. If someone could accomplish it today without the aide of game changing PED (sorry, no Kenacort either), then at the very least we’d learn the accomplishment is possible under normal human wattage. We’d also probably learn that, by the end, the guys would be riding extremely slowly. But it would be fun to watch, and we’d celebrate the hell out of he who won.
15. Meh, really tough grand tours often make for bad TV, like the 2011 Giro.
Hey, yeah, speaking of doping!
16. Did anyone enjoy it when Contador used Michele Scarponi as a punching bag?
I see your point.
17. So how do you ensure that nobody is doping?
No steak allowed at dinner.
18. Oh come on.
Okay, okay. May I introduce you to Helen. She’s an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service. Yes, Helen is extremely thorough and enjoys enforcing the rules. She and her team of auditors will be spending every waking hour monitoring the 12 riders in question from April through July. Sorry Richie Porte, Helen is going to be sleeping over.
19. This sounds expensive.
It’s a good thing that hypothetical scenarios don’t have budgets, right?
20. So every team gets the same budget as Sky then?
Sure, why not!?
21. Sounds like a deal. See you in Sardinia!