Philippa York analysis: Double trouble for Giro-Tour challengers

When the presentations of the Grand Tours happen there's a collective amnesia

It took me about five stages of the Tour de France to discover that riding a rival Grand Tour beforehand wasn't a good idea for my level of ability. The first three-week race usually turned out fine, but the second was a gradual descent into the depths of tiredness that my team managers of the moment seemed not to notice, or refused to, and the experiment continued all too often.

It's a predicament that cycling history tells us isn't rare at all, in fact it's only the exceptionally talented who can be in the battle for the podium when one Grand Tour is followed by another less than two months later. It's an even smaller subset that has won both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour in the same season, and yet every year when the presentations of the GTs happen somehow there's a collective amnesia of how trying to race both has turned out previously.

Before there was talk of how the Giro would be good training for the Tour de France, but those deluded days are long gone and the level required to be competitive is just as high in Italy as it is in France, with the consequences that the energy spent doing the first one isn't going to be available until a proper long rest period has been completed. And the usual six weeks from Giro end to Tour start isn't quite enough for most folks.

In 2019 it's only five, so you have to wonder if the immediate enthusiasm shown by certain teams for doubling up is a consequence of too much champagne at the launch party or just plain wishful thinking. More likely, it's a case of being polite and remembering the media training because you can hardly say, 'You've got to be joking, look at all the mountains', when you're standing there knocking back the complimentary drinks and eating the exquisite hors d'oeuvres. I shouldn't be so cynical.

Look at this year, for example, and how the double turned out for a number of riders.

First up has to be Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), who was second at the Giro, second at the Tour, and so obviously he has the capacity to cope with the workload. However, his team didn't, and therein lies one of the other requirements. A rider like Dumoulin needed backup riders to help in tricky situations, and when you take perspective of both races, wouldn't he have been better to concentrate on only one GT.

For direct rival Chris Froome (Team Sky), the Giro worked out well but only after an all-or-nothing play which destroyed Sunweb's hopes. Without that, and Dumoulin's hesitations, it could have been a lot closer. The consequences of having to go so deep then showed at the Tour de France, where Froome's teammate Geraint Thomas took the initiative, in the style of Team Sky's designated leader no less, and Froome never looked like seriously mounting a challenge. Even more poignant was the need for super domestiques, and without the sacrifices of Egan Bernal, Froome's podium place probably would have been in danger.

The only two other riders near team leader status, Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Wout Poels (Team Sky), rode both events, and though the Italian was Bahrain's number one in Italy, he was on domestique duties at the Tour. The Dutchman was in the wind each time.

Therefore, you have to take it with a pinch of scepticism when in the heat of the moment you hear any of the big players say they might ride the Giro and also the Tour de France. It's been 20 years since anyone has won both, and I don't see it being done anytime soon, as the planning of having a team leader strong enough and a supporting cast of a high enough level in each race is immense.

Team Sky and Froome thought about, tried it and even for the best stage racer of his generation it was too much, and they have the budget and infrastructure necessary. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) knows better than to try, and Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) can't cope. Maybe Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) might try in a few years, but not immediately. So who else of the current GT winners is daring enough? Not Geraint Thomas. He has too much sense, and Team Sky will have learnt their lesson.

Hopefully, the other teams will have noticed that, but don't be surprised if there are still dreamers out there.

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