Chris Froome rode into the history books as he won the 2018 Giro d’Italia, becoming only the seventh man to win all three Grand Tours.
Froome, 33, joins a list of cycling superstars including Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault – the only other two to have held all three titles simultaneously, as Froome now does.
The Team Sky man now has six Grand Tour wins to his name after his Giro d’Italia triumph, and is the first man to hold all three since the Vuelta was moved to its current date in the calendar.
He joins two recent inductees, Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador, while Jacques Anquetil and Felice Gimondi also take their place in the pantheon of cycling’s Grand Tour greats.
Let’s take a closer look at this magnificent seven, and how Froome’s achievements match up to his forebears…
Jacques Anquetil: Monsieur Chrono
Jacques Anquetil was just 23 when he won his first Tour de France in 1957, but he already boasted a big reputation thanks to his time trial pedigree, winning the Grand Prix des Nations as a ‘curly-haired teenager from Normandy’.
Anquetil set a new hour record in 1956, beating Fausto Coppi’s mark at the third attempt, and then turned his attention to the Tour – winning on his debut in 1957 thanks to four individual stage wins.
Date of birth: 08/01/1934
Tour de France: 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964
Giro d’Italia: 1960, 1964
Vuelta a Espana: 1963
He then won four in a row from 1961 to 1964, with the latter iconic for his famous elbow-to-elbow battle with Raymond Poulidor on the Puy de Dome, where at the edge of his limits he managed to stick with his compatriot and GC rival as he held the yellow jersey.
Anquetil was the first to win five Tours, winning 16 stages in the race in all, and by that point was already the first to win all three Grand Tours – his first Giro triumph having arrived in 1960, courtesy of two wins against the clock, and his only Vuelta victory arriving in 1963 after a dominant display which saw him finish three minutes ahead of his nearest rival. Anquetil also won the 1964 Giro d’Italia, prior to his defeat of Poulidor at the Tour.
Felice Gimondi: The Phoenix
The year after Jacques Anquetil’s final Tour de France triumph, first-year pro Felice Gimondi shot into the spotlight by taking overall victory – courtesy of three stage wins, two of which were time trials – in his debut Tour.
A late replacement for his Salvarani team, due to a team-mate’s injury, Gimondi came into the race on the back of a third-place finish supporting Vittorio Adorni’s Giro d’Italia victory.
Gimondi first pulled on the yellow jersey by winning stage three, and then after briefly ceding it to Bernard van de Kerckhove he won it back on stage nine and carried it to the finish – beating Raymond Poulidor by 2’40” overall.
Date of birth: 29/09/1942
Tour de France: 1965
Giro d’Italia: 1967, 1969, 1976
Vuelta a Espana: 1968
The following year he bagged two Monument wins, at Paris-Roubaix and the Giro di Lombardia, before his maiden Giro d’Italia victory in 1967 ahead of Jacques Anquetil – who he only claimed the pink jersey from with three stages remaining.
And Gimondi completed his triple in 1968, winning the Vuelta a Espana to follow Anquetil into the history books. He was to win the Giro twice more, in 1969 an 1976, and eventually finished on the Giro podium nine times – more than any other rider.
Eddy Merckx: The Cannibal
What more can be said about The Cannibal, Eddy Merckx, that hasn’t been said already? Any list of notable cycling records can be guaranteed to feature the Belgian legend.
Most Tour de France stage wins? Check, with 34. Joint-most Tour de France wins? Check, one of four men to win five times. Joint-most Giro d’Italia wins? Check, one of three with five. Triple crown? Check, 1974. Monuments? Check, winning all five on multiple occasions.
All in, Merckx bagged 525 victories over his 18-year career but it was the late 1960s and early 1970s when he dominated the Grand Tours.
His maiden Giro d’Italia victory, in 1968, saw him win the general classification, mountains classification and points classification, and he did the same when he first won the Tour de France the following year.
Merckx won the Tour four years in a row between 1969 and 1972, completing Giro-Tour doubles in both 1970 and 1972. He then completed his Grand Tour triple with victory in the 1973 Vuelta a Espana – winning six stages on the way, and also topping the points classification.
On the back of his 1972 Giro-Tour double, it made him the first rider to simultaneously hold all three Grand Tours, and he then lined up for the 1973 Giro d’Italia, promptly making it four Grand Tours in a row in stunning fashion – leading the race from start to finish to complete the first ever Vuelta-Giro double.
Date of birth: 17/06/1945
Tour de France: 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974
Giro d’Italia: 1968, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974
Vuelta a Espana: 1973
Merckx then made more history the following year, despite failing to win a spring classic for the first time in his career. He was still suffering illness when he started the 1974 Giro d’Italia, but a 200km attack in abysmal weather on the final week turned the race on its head.
Merckx eventually won by 12 seconds, and then lined up for the Tour de France where he was back to his best – winning a record-equalling eight stages on his way to a record-equalling fifth Tour de France triumph. Already a two-time world champion, Merckx then won the rainbow jersey for the third time to complete the Triple Crown (Giro-Tour-Worlds).
That was to be the last year he won any of those races – he was famously punched in the back by a spectator at the 1975 Tour before finishing second overall and eventually retired in 1978.
Bernard Hinault: Le Blaireau
As Merckx’s career was ending, cycling’s next major superstar's was just beginning: Bernard Hinault turned professional in 1975, won his first Grand Tours in 1978 and never looked back from there.
Hinault rode the Tour de France for the first time in 1978, having impressed the previous year at the Dauphiné Libéré, and warmed up in perfect fashion – making his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a Espana and promptly going on to win it.
At the Tour, in the blue, white and red of French national champion, Hinault enjoyed a race-long battle with Joop Zoetemelk and claimed the yellow jersey in the final time trial. The following year he beat Zootemelk again.
Hinault completed his Grand Tour triple in 1980, winning the Giro d’Italia, but was forced to abandon the Tour with a knee injury, ending his hopes of a Triple Crown (he still won the Worlds, however).
Hinault won the Tour again as world champion in 1981 and claimed his fourth victory in five years in 1982 – completing a Giro-Tour double for the first time.
He replicated Merckx’s previous feat when he then started the following year by winning the Vuelta a Espana to make him the holder of all three Grand Tours.
Date of birth: 14/11/1954
Tour de France: 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985
Giro d’Italia: 1980, 1982, 1985
Vuelta a Espana: 1978, 1983
After missing the 1983 Tour through injury, and then finishing second behind Laurent Fignon in 1984, Hinault bagged a second Giro-Tour double in 1985 before concluding his Grand Tour career in support of Greg LeMond at the 1986 Tour. While he was supposed to be supporting the American, he attacked his team-mate, held the yellow jersey for five stages, won three stages and bagged the mountains classification (all part of his masterplan to set up LeMond’s win, he claimed) as he finished second overall behind his team-mate.
With that being his final Tour – and final Grand Tour – it meant Hinault ended his career having finished either first or second at every Grand Tour he ever finished. His remarkable record reads: 13 starts, 12 finishes, ten wins, two second places.
Alberto Contador: El Pistolero
It was some 28 years after Bernard Hinault completed the Grand Tour triple before the achievement was matched again. Miguel Indurain went close, winning the Tour five times, including two back-to-back Giro-Tour doubles in 1992 and 1993 but never managed to better his 1991 runners-up spot at his home Grand Tour, the Vuelta.
It was to be a Spaniard who achieved it next, however. Alberto Contador’s first Tour de France triumph arrived following his switch to the Discovery Channel team in 2007, becoming the beneficiary of Michael Rasmussen’s removal from the race to climb from second to first, before holding the jersey to Paris with just 31 seconds between him and third-placed team-mate Levi Leiphamer overall.
He was supposed to defend his Tour de France title with new team Astana the following season, but Astana were not invited as a result of past doping offences and Contador instead received a late Giro d’Italia call-up. He took full advantage, however, taking the jersey on the Passo Fedaia on stage 15 and carrying it to the Milan finale. With no Tour to race, Contador then went head-to-head with Tour champion Carlos Sastre at the Vuelta a Espana instead. Victory on the Angliru gave him the race lead, and he never surrendered it from there – completing his Grand Tour triple aged just 25 (the youngest to ever achieve the feat). Contador was also the quickest to achieve the triple, with just 15 months between his three wins.
Contador’s winning streak continued when he was victorious in the 2009 Tour de France despite strained relations with the team after they signed Lance Armstrong when he came out of retirement. He then concluded his time at Astana by winning the 2010 Tour, but in controversial fashion after attacking on the Port de Bales when race leader Andy Schleck suffered a mechanical.
The victory was overshadowed and then overturned by the clenbuterol controversy which embroiled Contador, which revealed he failed a doping test during the race. While the investigation was ongoing, he raced and won the 2011 Giro d’Italia, but also had that scratched from the record when he was eventually handed a back-dated ban.
The suspension ended in August 2012, however, leaving Contador free to ride the Vuelta a Espana – which he promptly won, after finally getting the better of Joaquim Rodriguez on stage 17 following a race-long battle.
Date of birth: 06/12/1982
Tour de France: 2007, 2009
Giro d’Italia: 2008, 2015
Vuelta a Espana: 2008, 2012, 2014
Contador never won the Tour de France again, after a combination of Chris Froome’s rise to prominence and a bad crash in the 2014 race – though he did bounce back after fracturing his leg in the latter to win the Vuelta a Espana just two months later.
El Pistolero’s final Grand Tour victory came in 2015 at the Giro d’Italia, notable for his stunning ride on the Passo di Mortirolo which allowed him to seize control of the race before claiming the seventh Grand Tour win of his career (with two others scratched from the record).
Vincenzo Nibali: The Shark of Messina
Vincenzo Nibali’s breakthrough year came in 2010, when he took advantage of a late Giro d’Italia call-up to finish third overall as team-mate Ivan Basso claimed victory. On the back of that form he claimed his maiden Grand Tour triumph at the Vuelta a Espana, despite not winning a stage.
He was back on a Grand Tour podium in 2012, earning himself a place in the future of pub quiz questions when he finished third behind British duo Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome at the Tour de France.
A move to Astana followed, with the target of winning the 2013 Giro d’Italia – with Wiggins again slated as his chief rival. Nibali was already leading when Wiggins abandoned, however, and in a race beset by awful weather conditions he sealed victory with a stage win on the snow-bound Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
Nibali was also favourite for the 2013 Vuelta a Espana but lost out after a race-long battle with veteran Chris Horner – losing the race lead on stage 19 and being unable to claim it back after an epic battle on the Angliru.
Date of birth: 14/11/1984
Tour de France: 2014
Giro d’Italia: 2013, 2016
Vuelta a Espana: 2010
Nevertheless, Nibali bounced back in 2014 with a history-making Tour de France victory. Going into the race as Italian champion, he swapped his green, white and red-striped jersey after winning stage two solo in Sheffield. He won three more stages in total, and also impressed on the cobblestone stage to prove his all-round ability – only surrendering the yellow jersey for one day on his way to one of the most dominant victories of the recent era.
Nibali has won one further Grand Tour to date, staging a stunning comeback on the final weekend of the 2016 Giro d’Italia – winning stage 19 as race leader Steven Kruijswijk crashed, claiming the pink jersey from Johan Esteban Chaves on stage 20 and riding into Torino as champion.
In 2017, Nibali was on the Grand Tour podiums twice more – finishing third at the Giro d’Italia and second at the Vuelta a Espana, while he also has three Monument wins having added the 2018 Milan-San Remo to his 2015 and 2017 Giro di Lombardia wins.
Chris Froome: Froomey
Chris Froome may have a less imaginative nickname than the other six riders to achieve a Grand Tour triple, but his achievement is no less spectacular, particularly the manner in which he stepped up in the last 12 months.
Date of birth: 20/05/1985
Tour de France: 2013, 2015, 2016 2017
Giro d’Italia: 2018
Vuelta a Espana: 2017
Froome shot to prominence with his second place at the 2011 Vuelta a Espana, with stories suggesting he was set to be released from Team Sky until that result. Instead, he went to the 2012 Tour de France as Bradley Wiggins’ super-domestique and – despite a strained relationship with his team leader – finished second behind Wiggins in a Team Sky one-two.
It earned him his own shot at the Tour the following year, and he repaid the team’s faith – winning three stages, including a stunning win on Mont Ventoux on Bastille Day – to become the second Brit to win the race.
Simon Wilkinson / SWPix.com
After crashing out of the 2014 Tour de France, he was second at the Vuelta a Espana for a second time, behind fellow comeback king Alberto Contador, and then went on to win his second Tour in 2015 – also claiming the King of the Mountains title.
A second consecutive Tour triumph followed in 2016 – courtesy of a eye-catching solo descent on the Col de Peyresourde to claim the yellow jersey, and then a strong all-round showing which included gaining more time after a later breakaway alongside green jersey Peter Sagan and a team-mate each. He was again second at the Vuelta a Espana, insisting that after his performances he was confident a double could be achieved.
He went even better, of course, winning the Tour despite not winning a stage and backing that up with his elusive Vuelta a Espana victory, holding the red jersey from stage three all the way to the finish and winning two stages along the way. He was also points classification winner.
Despite controversy hanging over him, after it was revealed he had returned an adverse analytical find in an in-competition doping test at the Vuelta (which he continues to protest his innocence for), Froome then went on to achieve his triple – holding all three at the same time – by winning the 2018 Giro d’Italia. Froome’s victory was earned thanks to an 80km solo break, overturning a three-minute deficit on stage 19 to jump from fourth to first on his way to victory.