Team Movistar is banking on Nairo Quintana improving throughout the 2017 Giro d’Italia this May to face Chris Froome in his best possible shape in the Tour de France one month later. It bucks modern theory that you cannot hold your fitness over the first two Grand Tours of the season.
For the first time in his career, Quintana is scheduled to race both the Italian and French Grand Tours – May 5 to 28 and July 1 to 23 respectively. The Colombian won the Giro d’Italia in his only participation in 2014.
“Let’s start by saying that we are not doing things just for the sake of it,” Movistar general manager, Eusebio Unzué told La Gazzetta dello Sport at the team’s 2017 presentation.
“We have technical data that make us think that Nairo can do well in both tours and history says that in the second major stage race of the season, he goes better than in the first.
“And then, in four of the seven Tour victories that I could enjoy so far, three times the rider in question, Indurain and Delgado, had first rode the Giro.”
Based on last season, Unzué is correct. Nairo suffered around France, which the team later said was due to allergies, and fought back to finish third overall. He improved in time for the Vuelta a España to beat Froome and win the overall.
However, with the Vuelta holding less importance in the sport, riders can afford to take what they have left from the Tour. The Giro is demanding, and the Tour more so.
Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) was the last of the stars to attempt the Giro/Tour double. He won the Giro in 2015 and found little left in the tank to take on Froome in the Tour, finishing fifth.
Quintana will face series rivals in the Giro’s 100th edition who can afford leave everything on the table without the Tour on their mind.
He will face defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Sky’s Mikel Landa and Geraint Thomas, Fabio Aru (Astana), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing).
He will not just be in Italy to eat Spaghetti Bolognese and put the kilometres in his legs toward the Tour.
“Clearly! The culture of the team and the ambition to Nairo can not allow it, as well as the importance of the race which also celebrates the hundred editions, something historic,” Unzué added.
“We want to have a great Giro and a great Tour. And we do not think that the first may have adverse consequences on the latter.
“In between are 33 days: enough time to recover to the fullest. And then Nairo stopped racing on September 11, 2016, when he won the Vuelta.
“Between that date and the start of the Tour there are nine and a half months in which will have accumulated 40 days competition: Nairo’s body will have enough freshness to recover the fitness necessary to have a great Tour.”
Other experts argue that winning the double is nearly impossible in modern cycling with specialised and finely tuned calendars.
Italian Marco Pantani last won the double in 1998. That year was particular because seven teams left the Tour de France due to the Festina Affair.