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Quintana considering Giro-Tour double in 2017

The Colombian still wants to win the yellow jersey, but the prospect of racing on the exciting 2017 Giro route is enticing.

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PAMPLONA, Spain (VN) — It may not be all about the Tour de France for Nairo Quintana in 2017. Movistar dropped a bombshell Friday, confirming Quintana might race the Giro d’Italia next season as well.

Hot off winning the Vuelta a España last month and with the 2014 Giro d’Italia already in his pocket, Quintana’s grand tour future only has one unchecked box. But Movistar isn’t discounting a run at the Giro before taking on the Tour next season.

“The Tour and Vuelta didn’t turn out so bad, so maybe we can try it with the Giro and Tour,” Quintana said Friday in a press conference. “If we don’t try, we’ll never know what will happen.”

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The final decision hasn’t been made, but Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué confirmed the Giro-Tour double is under consideration. The Giro will be celebrating its centenary edition in 2017 and there is growing buzz that some of the sport’s biggest names will trek to Italy next May, including three-time Tour winner Chris Froome (Sky).

“With Nairo, the Tour clearly is the top goal, but we are also considering racing the Giro as well,” Unzué said. “We have to look at all the possibilities, and maybe we’ll race the Tour-Vuelta combination. The final decision is not made.”

The stakes are high for any rider attempting the Giro-Tour double. Some of the biggest names have pulled it off, yet others have fallen short in the effort.

The risk is obvious. If Quintana raced the Giro, the Colombian would be facing off against rivals who did not race in Italy and who would be clearly fresher for the Tour. Unzué raised a tantalizing question: what if all the top Tour favorites also raced the Giro?

“I would love to see a Giro with all the big stars in the race,” Unzué said. “The Giro is a spectacular race, and with the topography the country delivers, it has the makings of a great race. If all the top riders were there, I think it would be something good for our sport.”

Unzué said despite the fact that no one’s managed to win both the Giro and Tour in nearly two decades, he reiterated it’s not impossible.

“We have seen riders who can do it, including Miguel [Indurain] in his day,” Unzué said. “I think if you can modify the schedule, there is enough time to recover after the Giro and be ready for the Tour. The key is how hard the Giro is.”

Just considering a Giro-Tour double by Quintana will pump even more excitement into next year’s Giro. No one’s been able to pull off the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998. Other efforts have failed, including a run by Alberto Contador in 2015. The Spaniard won the Giro but was flat in the Tour, and said it’s simply too much to be at the top level in both races.

Quintana, however, is younger and hungrier. If he decided to take on the challenge, there is no doubt he’d be ready. Last year, after falling a bit flat in the Tour to seriously challenge Froome, he still managed to finish third overall, and then bounce back to win the Vuelta.

With a lack of major climbs, the 2017 Tour isn’t ideal for Quintana, but he said the fewer kilometers of time trials still tilt the race toward his favor.

“It’s a course that doesn’t favor more but it doesn’t disfavor me, either,” Quintana said. “It’s an interesting course. The fewer time trial kilometers, the better for me. With the mix of medium mountains, it’s a course that invites more riders to be able to fight for the GC.”

Quintana joined his Movistar teammates in the shadow of the Pyrénées for a few days of meetings, setting the groundwork for next season. After a long year, Quintana will return to Colombia to recharge the batteries and prepare the hard work for taking on Froome.

“I’ve just been rolling on the bike since the end of the Vuelta,” he said. “Now we will start to get serious about the coming season and prepare for the major goals.”

Alejandro Valverde, who has already confirmed he will not race all three grand tours next year like he did in 2016, will slot into the role of elite helper. Confirmed to stay with Movistar for three more seasons, the veteran Valverde provides Quintana with a strong ally both on and off the bike. That will not change next season.

“I will go back to what works best for me,” Valverde said. “I will focus on the classics and then be ready for the Tour and the Vuelta.”

No matter what they choose, Movistar will be a contender in every major race it starts. The team loses a few key riders, including Ion Izagirre, but picked up Daniele Bennati as a key helper for the flats. Whether the team can beat back Froome in the Tour remains to be seen, and with Froome looking unbeatable in 2016, maybe that’s part of the reason why Movistar is considering sending Quintana to the Giro as well. The Giro course, with longer time trials, favors Froome. Movistar will also wait to see what type of course the Vuelta a España delivers for 2017 before making its final decision.

Quintana had his poker face on and wouldn’t reveal which option he favored. He defiantly said his “yellow jersey dream” remains firmly in place.

“We know the principal objective will be the Tour,” Quintana said. “We’ll see how the calendar takes shape.”