Eddy Merckx has called on Chris Froome to ride the Giro d'Italia in 2018 and emulate his achievement of holding all three Grand Tour titles at the same time. Merckx won the Giro-Tour double in 1972 and then won the Vuelta a España the following year, while Bernard Hinault won the three Grand Tours in the same sequence in 1982-83.
Froome won his fourth Tour de France in July and then added a maiden Vuelta victory in September. Although the Sky rider has said winning a record-equalling fifth Tour is his priority in 2018, he has not ruled out the idea of tackling the Giro.
"Froome would do well to come to the Giro next year. In fact, being a champion, he has to come, even if he has a fifth Tour win in mind," Merckx told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "And if Dumoulin is there too, it will be a beautiful duel. I don't know who would win."
In 2017, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) attempted the Giro-Tour double but fell short both in Italy, where he placed second to Dumoulin, and France, where he could only manage 12th overall. Quintana's fatigue during the Tour led many to question whether attempting a Grand Tour double was still feasible, though Froome's subsequent Tour-Vuelta combination provided something of a counter-argument.
"For a rider like Froome, I say it is [possible]. He showed it this year with the Tour-Vuelta double," said Merckx, who was speaking at the Castello d'Oro awards ceremony in Valdengo. "He has the mentality and the motivation to achieve the feat – or at least to try it."
Giro director Mauro Vegni has made several public overtures to Froome in recent months, telling Cyclingnews in September that the Briton could "make history" by winning the corsa rosa.
The route of the 2018 Giro will be unveiled in Milan on Wednesday, though Vegni jokingly decried to Tuttobici that much of the suspense has been removed from the presentation as much of the course was leaked in the Italian press in recent weeks. Vegni added, however, that RCS Sport would soon be in a position to announce some news of the main participants in the 2018 Giro.
"By now you know everything because it seems there's a competition among the newspapers to publish the route ahead of time, but we still have to reveal something important regarding the participants," Vegni said. "And there will be surprises…"
A recent report in the Times suggested that Froome was giving serious thought to returning to the Giro for the first time since 2010, when he was excluded from the race for holding onto a police motorbike on the Mortirolo.
Froome is not slated to attend Wednesday's Giro presentation at RAI television studios in Milan, but 2017 winner Tom Dumoulin, 2016 champion Vincenzo Nibali, Italian champion Fabio Aru and the newly-retired Alberto Contador are among the confirmed guests.
Aru has already confirmed that he will tackle the Giro and Vuelta in 2018, while Dan Martin will lead UAE-Team Emirates at the Tour. Nibali has yet to announce his 2018 plans, though it seems unlikely that he will miss the Tour for a second successive season.