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Astana manager bullish on Quintana’s Giro-Tour double attempt

Giuseppe Martinelli directed Marco Pantani to his double in 1998 and said Nairo Quintana has the talent to pull it off.

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — If anyone can win the Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double, it is Nairo Quintana, Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli said. Martinelli, who directed Marco Pantani to his successful double in 1998, thinks Movistar’s Colombian should try to win both races, but he warned it has become harder to do so in modern sport.

Quintana — who won the 2014 Giro and the 2016 Vuelta a España and has a trio of top three finishes at the Tour — named the double as his goal for 2017. If he can win the Giro in May when the race celebrates its 100th edition, he will then need to recuperate to face three-time Tour winner Chris Froome of Sky.

“In this moment, it is very hard to do that double, even if I think that Quintana is the one to be able to pull off the double because he’s very intelligent and races very efficiently,” Martinelli said.

“When he attacks, he doesn’t spend much energy. He has the possibility of pulling it off, but it’s difficult. Very difficult.”

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Favorites Froome, Alberto Contador (Trek – Segafredo), and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) are building specifically for the Tour in July.

The Giro attracted a star lineup for its centennial, which runs May 5-28. Quintana tops the list that also includes Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain – Merida), Fabio Aru (Astana), Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo).

Martinelli will direct Aru in his bid to win his first Giro title after finishing third (2014) and second (2015). He looked over the names that are racing both the Giro and Tour and remembered how Pantani won the double 19 years ago.

“The problem, the biggest problem in this moment, is that as Oleg Tinkov says, and I hate to repeat what he says because many times I have argued with him, the problem is that you don’t have all the top stars riding the double. As he says, we need to have them all riding the double together. While Quintana is racing the Giro, Froome and Contador will be training specifically for the Tour,” Martinelli said.

“In the Giro, you are truly spending a lot to win because this year, the course is very hard and there are some serious rivals. And you’ll need that energy in the Tour.”

Pantani died in 2004 of a cocaine overdose. When he won the Giro in 1998, his biggest rival was Pavel Tonkov. At the Tour, he faced a diminished field due to the Festina Affair. Riders and teams protested and left the race as the doping investigation intensified.

He overhauled his biggest rival, German Jan Ullrich, with a long-distance attack on the Galibier climb. He rode clear with 48 kilometers to race and put nine minutes on Ullrich to take the yellow jersey.

“Miguel Indurain was the biggest star at the time that he did the double [in 1992 and 1993], there weren’t any other rivals at the same level. The same with Bernard Hinault [in 1982 and 1985],” added Martinelli.

“Marco had a lot of luck. He won the Giro sort of easily, his only rival was Tonkov, and it was an easy win for him. Then he went to the Tour just to see what would happen without pressure of having a result. In the end, he had a big ride one day and was able to win.”

Quintana is preparing for his big ride in the Giro and Tour now. On Thursday, he rode the Piancavallo climb that will be featured at the end of the Giro’s stage 19. He planned to train on the stage 20 route Friday, over the Cà del Poggio, Grappa, and Foza climbs.

“He needs to come to the Giro with an incredible condition and right away, take control, not suffer a bit at the start and then have to fight for the title in the last week. If he spends a little energy every day and maintains his lead, then he will have some energy left over for the Tour,” explained Martinelli.

“He’ll have to hope that the Tour doesn’t take off immediately, that it starts off calmly. That is similar to the way Marco did it when he won the double.”

Quintana is due to travel home to Colombia between the two races. In Boyacá, in the East Andes, he lives at 2,800 meters above sea level. Normally he returns to race the four-day Route du Sud before the Tour, but Martinelli said he would probably skip it this year with the Giro already in his legs.

If Quintana manages it right and wins both grand tours, he will become only the eighth cyclist in history to do so. The first was Fausto Coppi. Since then, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Hinault, Stephen Roche, Indurain, and Pantani have managed to win the double.

“I am content to be the last one to manage a rider who did the double,” Martinelli added. “And I believe for a little bit it will remain that way.”

Contador was the last cyclist to attempt the Giro-Tour double, in 2015. He won the Giro but tired out during the Tour and managed to finished fifth.