Can Nairo Quintana do the Giro-Tour double in 2017?
Colombian's season goals confirmed - but could they open the door for Chris Froome to win the Tour and Vuelta?
Nairo Quintana is targeting a Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double in 2017, his Movistar team have confirmed, as the Colombian bids to become only the eighth rider to win both Grand Tours in the same year.
Having been crowned Vuelta a Espana champion in September, the 26-year-old could therefore hold all three Grand Tours come the end of July.
Already a Giro d’Italia champion in 2014, and a three-time Tour de France podium finisher, Quintana is undoubtedly among the best Grand Tour riders in the current peloton, so what chance does he have of completing the fabled double?
Well, history, unfortunately, is not on Quintana’s side – nobody has done the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998 and Alberto Contador’s attempt in 2015 saw him run out of steam at the Tour, finishing fifth despite winning the Giro.
Fausto Coppi (1949, 1952)
Jacques Anquetil (1964)
Eddy Merckx (1970, 1972, 1974)
Bernard Hinault (1982, 1985)
Stephen Roche (1987)
Miguel Indurain (1992, 1993)
Marco Pantani (1998)
Quintana’s pre-Giro programme – confirmed by his Movistar team – will see him test his legs at the Mallorca Challenge, before heading to the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Abu Dhabi Tour.
The latter will be Quintana’s first UCI WorldTour appearance of the season, and his second arrives the following month at Tirreno-Adriatico in March. That will be followed by altitude training at home in Quintana’s native Colombia and then the Vuelta a Asturias.
By contrast, Contador prepared for his Giro-Tour attempt in 2015 by riding the Ruta del Sol, Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya – a total of 19 race days, to Quintana’s proposed 20.
But much will depend on Quintana’s ability to recover between the two Grand Tours. Should he win the Giro, he will have 3,572km in his legs having raced from Sardinia to Milan, with the Tour de France starting just 34 days later.
And the Giro route is a brutal one, too – a summit finish on Mount Etna as early as stage four, the tough Blockhaus climb on stage nine, and then the eagerly-awaited 16th stage which serves up the Mortirolo and a double ascent of the Passo dello Stelvio.
In fact, there are five back-to-back mountain stages before the final time trial into Milan, including a short but climb-laden stage 18 in the Dolomites between Moena and Ortisei/St.Ulrich.
In short, it’s as demanding as they come – there won’t even be a processional stage into Milan to wind down on the final day thanks to the inclusion of the time trial, though Quintana’s unparalleled climbing ability could mean the race is sewn up long before then.
Team-mate and fellow Movistar team leader Alejandro Valverde rode all three Grand Tours in 2016, alongside the Ardennes Classics and the Olympic Games road race, and finished third at the Giro, sixth at the Tour and 12th at the Vuelta.
But there is a world of difference between Valverde supporting Quintana at the Tour – as he will again in 2017, alongside riding the Vuelta – and Quintana riding to win it.
The 2017 Tour de France will take in 3,516km, covering all five of France’s mountain regions and again the climbing starts early with La Planche des Belles Filles on stage five.
Again, the racing will be hard from very early on for the GC men, and Quintana may find he’s bitten off more than he can chew, as Contador did in 2015.
Nevertheless, the Colombian has the attributes to win both races – particularly the climb-heavy Giro – and at least one Grand Tour win is on the cards.
He is already regarded as one of this generation’s best Grand Tour riders, with the 2014 Giro and 2016 Vuelta titles to his name, and a Giro-Tour double would confirm the diminutive climber as one of the greatest full stop.
Should two prove a step too far, however, it may open up Chris Froome’s chances of a Grand Tour double of his own – it was only Quintana who denied the Team Sky man a Tour-Vuelta double in 2016.
After winning his third Tour de France last summer, Froome finished second at the Vuelta – also for the third time – and is looking to go one better in 2017.
Quintana, as ever, will be among his chief rivals for the Tour de France, but after Contador failed to challenge the Kenyan-born Brit at the Tour in 2015, so might Quintana this time out.
And with the Colombian highly unlikely to join team-mate Valverde at the Vuelta a Espana, the door could be open for Froome to finally top the podium in both races.
It’s not as simple as that, of course – there is less time trialling in the 2017 Tour compared to last year, so Froome will need to show more of the tactical nous and attacking riding which saw him build up an advantage away from the mountains if he is to bid for a fourth yellow jersey.
The Vuelta, meanwhile, features some hefty transfers between stages and a series of monumental climbs – the return of the Alto de l’Angliru for starters. Nevertheless, if Froome is to be denied at the Vuelta, it will be down to the likes of Contador, Valverde or Johan Esteban Chaves to stop him, as opposed to Quintana.
So can Nairo Quintana complete a famous Grand Tour double in 2017? Or has he opened the door to Chris Froome to achieve a double of his own?
Either way, with two of this generation’s finest Grand Tour riders going wheel-to-wheel and two more, in Contador and Vincenzo Nibali, in contention for honours too, there will be plenty to look forward to this season. And that’s before we’ve even got on to rising stars like Fabio Aru, Romain Bardet and Johan Esteban Chaves.
Winning one Grand Tour in 2017 will be a huge achievement given the depth of talent on the UCI WorldTour. To win two would be worthy of a place in cycling legend.
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