The Movistar team of Nairo Quintana announced last week that the Colombian would target both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France this year. If he does somehow manage to win both Grand Tours, he would join an exclusive group of riders who have completed the double in the one season.
However, it’s a daunting task that Quintana faces and that’s shown by the fact that no rider has completed the Giro-Tour double since 1998 when Marco Pantani triumphed and it appears to be a lot more of a difficult feat than it was decades ago.
Quintana has triumphed at the Giro previously, taking the overall win in his one and only appearance in 2014. However, he didn’t line up at the Tour that year but has gone on to take 2nd and 3rd places in France in the past two years.
Recent results from riders who have had a chance at the double shows how difficult the task is. In 2010, Ivan Basso won his second Giro d’Italia ahead of David Arroyo and Vincenzo Nibali. He subsequently struggled at the Tour, particularly in the third week and only managed to finish in 31st position. 2012 Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal withdrew from that year’s Tour after being involved in a massive crash.
In 2015, Alberto Contador won the Giro, before going on to finish in 5th place at the Tour which is the best attempt in recent years. His previous victory in the Italian race was in 2008, where he decided not to race at the Tour but bounced back to win the Vuelta. It marked the last time that a Grand Tour double has been achieved.
Last year’s Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali could only manage to finish 30th overall at the Tour, a race which he has previously finished in 3rd and 4th places, in addition to his overall win in 2014. In each of the three years where he finished in the top four, Nibali had avoided taking part in the Giro.
Fausto Coppi was the first rider to do the double in 1949, in what was his first appearance in the Tour de France. He won both races by massive margins of victory. In the Giro, he beat his fierce rival Gino Bartali into second place by over 23 minutes. He took over the pink jersey after a remarkable 17th stage from Cuneo to Pinerolo, when he escaped alone on a stage which included the Maddalena Pass, the Col de Vars, the Col d’Izoard, the Col de Montgenèvre and the Sestriere Pass.
Just eighteen days after winning the Giro, Coppi lined up at the start of the Tour in Paris. Once again, he triumphed over Bartali, beating him by nearly eleven minutes to complete the Giro-Tour double for the first time.
Three years later, Coppi once again won both the Giro and the Tour, beating rivals such Fiorenzo Magni and Ferdi Kubler at the Italian race and Stan Ockers and Bernardo Ruiz at the Tour. That was the last time that Coppi would race the Tour de France.
The next cyclist to complete the Giro-Tour double was Jacques Anquetil in 1964. The Frenchman had already won the Vuelta a Espana and Tour de France the previous year, thus becoming the first rider to complete that particular double. Six years after Anquetil, Eddy Merckx would achieve his first Giro-Tour double. In 1972, he did it again and two years after that, he became the first rider to achieve the triple crown of Giro, Tour and World Championship road race.
In 1982, Bernard Hinault won the Giro for the second time in his career where he beat the Bianchi duo of Tommy Prim and Silvano Contini into second and third places respectively. Weeks later, he bookended a fourth Tour win by taking victory in the prologue and the final stage on the Champs Elysées. That win on the final stage came after he had been criticised for making the Tour boring. The Badger achieved the double again in 1985, coming under severe pressure from his own team mate Greg LeMond in the Tour but hanging on to win despite suffering injuries in a crash on the fourteenth stage. It marked Hinault’s fifth Tour win, thus equalling Anquetil and Merckx.
Two years later, Stephen Roche joined Eddy Merckx in becoming the only riders to achieve the Giro-Tour-Worlds triple crown. In 1992 Miguel Indurain won both Grand Tours and did it again the following season before finishing 2nd at the Worlds later that year. Five years later, Pantani achieved his double and as mentioned, he was the last cyclist to do it.
So it’s now nineteen years since a rider has managed the feat which is the longest since Fausto Coppi won both races in 1949. It’s a big ask for a rider to maintain form for six weeks in total and also avoid any injuries or other misfortunes. Adding to the challenge for Quintana is the fact that this year’s Giro is 105 kilometres longer than the 2016 edition. The big winner from the announcement last week would appear to be Chris Froome who can expect to have his biggest competitor lining up at the start in Dusseldorf with a 3572-kilometre Grand Tour in his legs and the physical and mental tiredness which that brings.