Recently retired Grand Tour specialist Alberto Contador has told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport that Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) can no longer win the Giro d'Italia this year.
Froome and Aru have both lost important amounts of time in the first 10 days of the Giro, with Froome in 10th place, 2:30 down on leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), and Aru in 14th, 2:39 back.
Seven-time Grand Tour winner Contador, who beat Aru to the 2015 Giro title and Froome to the 2014 Vuelta a España title, said both riders' efforts represent a continuation of poor form.
"Fabio has not been going well since the start of the season. He's never shown the same kind of condition he had in the 2015 race," Contador, who is currently reporting on the race for Eurosport in Spain, told La Gazzetta dello Sport "Froome is in the same situation. We already saw in the Tirreno-Adriatico that he wasn't going so well and the same in other races.
"Initially you could have thought that given these riders are so used to building for races so carefully, they were aiming to hit the race in perfect condition. But we've seen that on the climbs they are always losing time. They were lucky on the Sasso that it was a headwind, if was a tailwind then the gaps would have been even bigger."
Froome has lost time on two climbing stages - stage 4 in Sicily where he was badly positioned for a steep uphill finish, and again on the Gran Sasso on Sunday. The Briton's first time loss was minimal, but on the Gran Sasso, where Aru also dropped back, the gap was over a minute for both riders. Both were also off the pace in the opening time trial in Jerusalem, Froome having crashed in his recon ride.
Their chances of getting back into contention in the GC are possible, Contador told La Gazzetta, but he did not see either winning the Giro d'Italia.
"The worst thing is that they haven't been dropped by one or two riders; all the other favourites have gained time on them," Contador said. "In my opinion it's difficult for them to turn this situation around. Maybe they will get better, perhaps win some stages. But I don't think they will be able to fight for the final victory."
Contador recognised that Froome's crashes could well have had an effect, but he added that Froome has not seemed himself since the start of the season. The Spaniard himself, who recently became a father for the first time, is set to visit the Giro d'Italia on its last stage in Rome.