FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Movistar says winning the Giro d’Italia in May is key to Nairo Quintana having a chance at finally toppling Sky’s Chris Froome in the Tour de France. If successful in both, Quintana would be the first to win the Giro/Tour double in 19 years.
The 26-year-old could be the rider to do it, as he has proved successful in all three grand tours. He won the Giro in 2014, defeated Froome to win the Vuelta a España in 2016, and twice was runner-up to Froome in the Tour.
“Yes, [the Tour] is the biggest objective and everything will around the French race,” Quintana said at the team’s presentation Wednesday. “But that does not mean that I’m not going to fight for the Giro d’Italia title, but we will approach it with more tranquillity knowing that the ‘yellow dream’ is soon after.”
The Giro, which celebrates its 100th edition this year, runs from May 5-28. The Tour is scheduled for July 1-23.
Quintana holds the Corsa Rosa close to his heart. After a surprising second place in the 2013 Tour de France at the age of 23, Movistar took him to the 2014 Giro to learn to be a team leader. He won the race, becoming the first Colombian to do so.
In 2014, he rested and returned later in the year to race the Vuelta. He never returned to the Giro. This year seems to be the right time, with the race celebrating 100 editions since the first in 1909 and with his added maturity.
Some will question Movistar’s decision. In modern cycling, with cyclists training specifically and peaking for an event, racing to win the Giro/Tour double is nearly unheard of.
Spaniard Alberto Contador (Trek – Segafredo) could advise Quintana, as he tried for the double in 2015. He won the Giro and after his fifth place in the Tour, he said, “I came out of the Giro tired. I was fresh mentally, very motivated, but my body was still tired.”
Even Quintana’s trainer Mikel Zabala cautioned against the double in 2015 after seeing Contador’s performance.
“You can try to do both, for sure, but it doesn’t come free,” Zabala said. “You use the strength you need [in the Giro] for the Tour. If you don’t identify the main goals of the season, you can do a double, a double mistake!”
The Movistar team this year wanted to approach the Tour differently to have a chance of winning after twice placing second and once third behind Froome. That could be via a second Quintana Giro title in May, and then backing off over the 33 days before the Tour start.
It is banking on Quintana improving with age, in this case over the course of the spring and summer months leading to the Tour. The team manager Eusebio Unzué said Quintana typically rides better in his second grand tour of the year.
Quintana struggled with allergies in the Tour last year, placed third behind victor Froome, and returned in Spain for the Vuelta, where he beat Froome.
“We have good references and we think we have enough time to recover and be able to be 100 percent in both races,” Quintana added.
“Last year, I was able to make the podium in the Tour and win the Vuelta.”
Most teams have horses for the courses. Sky is sending Mike Landa and Geraint Thomas to the Giro and Froome to the Tour, Trek will have Bauke Mollema and Contador at the Tour, and BMC Racing will send Tejay van Garderen to the Giro and Richie Porte to the Tour.
Quintana will square off against several top stars in the Giro, including defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain – Merida) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo), before going to the Tour. Froome, who began his season this week with an unclassified race in Melbourne, will follow a tailored plan of week-long stage races and altitude camps to arrive prepared and fresh for the Tour.
“In principle, Froome would be fresher, yes, but you have to see what preparation he does,” Quintana said. “As I say, we have planned the season to arrive in optimal condition.”
Quintana’s double decision will win him many fans in Italy, where Marco Pantani is highly regarded. The Italian, who died of a cocaine overdose in 2004, won the Giro/Tour double in 1998 — the last person to pull off the feat.
Only seven cyclists have ever won the double: Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Stephen Roche, Miguel Indurain, and Pantani.
Listen to our conversation about Quintana’s Giro-Tour double attempt on the VeloNews podcast: