Bernard Hinault says that it is possible for modern riders to achieve what he did twice in his career, winning the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same season, saying that there is sufficient time to recover between both.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) is the only rider this year aiming to take on the feat, with his first mission for Giro glory starting on Saturday in Sanremo, before heading to the Tour de France on July 4, just 33 days after the end of the Giro.
“It is possible to win Giro and Tour in the same season,” Hinault told AS.
“You can perform at your best in the Giro and arrive at the start of the Tour at the maximum. There is sufficient separation between the three Grand Tours as it is configured in today's calendar.”
The last rider to win both of those races in the same season was Marco Pantani in 1998, but 10 time Grand Tour winner Hinault insists that not only is it possible to do the double, but that it’s “in theory possible” to win the Vuelta a España as well in the same season.
Contador faces a reduced line-up of leading GC contenders at the Giro, with Richie Porte (Team Sky) favourite to challenge the former winner for the title, while he’ll face a stronger opposition in the likes of Chris Froome (Team Sky), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) at the Tour.
>>> Five things to look out for at the Giro d’Italia
Quintana, who opted not to defend his Giro 2014 title this year, is leading a resurgence of Colombian success in the WorldTour, alongside the likes of Rigoberto Uran (Etixx – Quick-Step). But Hinault believes it’s too early to judge whether Quintana is set to become an all-time great.
“Nairo Quintana is an extraordinary rider,” he said. “In his youth he has already proved his quality in the Tour and has won a Giro. But today I think he is only best of his generation. It's still early.
“You cannot look for similarities with, for example, the appearance of Herrera and what it meant for Colombian cycling. There will be time in the future to evaluate what they (the Colombians) are achieving.”
Hinault was also asked about the prospects another resurging crop of riders, those from France, with the Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) leading the way after impressive rides at last year's Tour.
“There are various young riders in France, like those ones that you named (Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot) that have a great future and of course they will have their chance,” Hinault said.
“This year? Perhaps [they can succeed]. But they only have options if they are not limited to following wheels. If you think that arriving in a group is sufficient then you are wrong. They will only succeed if they surprise the favourites by attacking, from a distance if it is necessary.”
Cycling Weekly's Giro d'Italia 2015 contenders preview
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Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.
An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).
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