The number of riders who are capable of winning Grand Tour general classifications and the subsequent competition is at an all time high, according to David Millar.
Millar, who won nine Grand Tour stages during his 17-year career, says that he has never known a period in cycling’s last few decades when there has been so many riders who harbour realistic aims of winning the sport’s three biggest races: the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
Citing the fact that there was six Grand Tour winners competing in the 2015 Tour de France, as well as the emergence of Tom Dumoulin and Geraint Thomas, Millar believes that 2016 could go into the cycling annals as the year of legendary Grand Tour battles.
“This is the greatest generation of Grand Tour riders that we’ve ever seen,” he told Cycling Weekly.
“In my history of watching the sport, I’ve never seen anything like that.
“We have Nibali, Quintana, Contador and Froome, as well as Dumoulin and G coming up, and Valverde is still chipping away.
“Grand Tours are more exciting now than I’ve seen in a very long time.”
Despite the Scotsman’s appraisal, he has no doubts that Team Sky’s Chris Froome will win this summer’s Tour, in what would be the Briton’s third success.
“Froome-dog,” he replied when asked to predict the winner. “It would be good to see Contador go out with a bang but I think Froome.
“With Contador not doing the Giro this year, maybe we’ll see him one last time at his best against Froome, who will be at his best alongside Nibali.
“The last few Tours have been a bit of damp squib so hopefully we can have the race we haven’t really had in the past couple of years.
“We’ve had these Grand Tour winners going against each other but it’s fallen by the wayside, one by one.”
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Dumoulin’s performance at the Vuelta last year, when he relinquished the lead on stage 20 to Fabio Aru, impressed Millar who can now foresee the Dutchman challenging in Grand Tours on a regular basis.
The Giant-Alpecin rider is racing May’s Giro but skipping the Tour to prepare for the Olympic time trial, a schedule which pleases Millar, the 2010 Commonwealth Games time trial champion.
“In my eyes, after watching the Vuelta last year and seeing how he performed, he is the next big Grand Tour rider,” Millar, now 39, went on.
“He’s doing that classic development of not going straight in to the Tour.
“He’s got his head together in the way he really focused for the Vuelta and for the Giro this year.”