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Brailsford: It’s easy to talk about the Giro-Tour double

Nairo Quintana is the latest rider to come up short of achieving the near-impossible Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double.

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Winning one grand tour is hard enough. Winning the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same year is proving impossible. Colombian Nairo Quintana is the latest victim.

Team Movistar and its star rider from 2,825 meters altitude in the East Andes launched their idea over the winter. It seemed fair enough, Quintana had just won the Vuelta a España, already scored a Giro d’Italia title in 2014 and placed second twice in the Tour de France behind Sky’s Chris Froome.

“When you look at these things on paper, the calendar, and think, ‘Why not do the double? Why not do three?'” team Sky boss David Brailsford told VeloNews.

“It’s easy to talk about [the double] but then you get into the middle of the race and you see how difficult these things are to win. Winning one is an amazing achievement in itself.”

To be fair, Quintana came close to making the first of two steps. He led the Giro until the final time trial Sunday, when Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) overhauled him in the Milan time trial by 31 seconds. Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué said that this was not the same brilliant Quintana as we have seen before. Quintana said that a fever in the last week hampered his effort.

Quintana should be applauded for trying, just like Alberto Contador did in 2015: placing first in the Giro and fifth in the Tour. The list, though, will remain the same for some time: Italian Marco Pantani the last to succeed in the double in 1998. Six others Miguel Indurain, Stephen Roche, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, and Fausto Coppi also prevailed.

Now, Quintana must recover enough from Giro stress to face another three weeks in July against grand tour cyclists who have been training specifically. It is a big gamble by Team Movistar. It not only risks missing the double, but a title in either grand tour.

Unzué said that if anything, the Giro will be a good base for Quintana with the Tour ahead. Last year, Quintana placed third in the Tour. A month and a half later, he conquered Froome to win the Vuelta.

“It wasn’t so long ago that everyone thought that riding the Giro was great for the Tour,” Brailsford explained. “There’s a big ol’ gap between the two if you managed it properly. So it’s not that it’s not doable, but it’s a challenge nonetheless.”

Quintana is resting this week before resuming training for the Tour de France. He is not due to race between the Giro’s Milan stage last Sunday and the opening stage of the Tour in Düsseldorf on July 1 — a gap of 33 days. Froome, a three-time Tour winner, just returned from a high-altitude camp in Tenerife. He will start in the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday.

“I think it’s going to be tough for Nairo to do the Giro and the Tour” Froome told Reuters. He added, however, “he may be doing better in the Tour because he is a rider who is better in the second rather than the first Grand Tour.”