The question of whether Chris Froome will line up in next year’s Giro d’Italia for the first time in seven seasons hangs on another: is the Giro-Tour de France double still possible in the current era?
Almost two decades have passed since Marco Pantani last achieved this feat, and back in 1998 cycling looked very different indeed.
Since then, a string of riders has been hyped for the Giro-Tour double, Alberto Contador being the most recent and high-profile. The Spaniard claimed a second ‘corsa rosa’ victory in 2015 and then moved on to the Tour to challenge Froome for the yellow jersey only to finish fifth and off the pace in Paris.
While glad that he had attempted the double before the end of his career, Contador described the challenge as ‘complicated’.
Fatigued by a race-long battle with Fabio Aru’s Astana team at the Giro, the Spaniard was below his best at the Tour. Contador suggested the Giro-Tour double is possible if a rider can manage to work out the ideal preparation for it.
Is Froome the man who can do this? At the moment, the Sky team leader looks the rider best placed to achieve the double. He has the ability and the expertise behind him to make it viable.
Yet, there is a good reason why Froome has consistently opted to attempt the Tour-Vuelta double. His rivals are generally the same at these two races. Consequently, most of them are no fresher than him heading into three hot weeks in Spain.
By switching to a Giro-Tour focus, he would be likely face the same kind of intense battle Contador did in 2015 and then arrive at the Tour with that in his legs and his main rivals all at 100 per cent.
Froome’s tweet that he likes the look of a Giro that features time trials of 38 and 29 kilometres may have race director Mauro Vegni hyperventilating with excitement, but should be set against his comments at last week’s Tour presentation in Paris.
"One day I’d like to take a look at the Giro, but at the moment I’m still focused on the Tour. It looks a lot harder to do the Giro-Tour double and my experience is that I’ve been a lot closer with the Tour-Vuelta double.
"The Tour remains the number one goal," he stated.
If the Tour is his number goal, the Giro almost certainly won’t feature on his programme next year. Froome was better placed than most to see how Contador struggled at the 2015 Tour, and the Spaniard is the rival he admires above all others.
And as the hype builds around the possibility of Froome returning to a race that he was kicked out of in 2010 for hanging onto a motorbike on the Mortirolo, it should also be noted that Froome, as he himself points out, has yet to complete the Tour-Vuelta double that is widely regarded as a more achievable challenge.
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