Alberto Contador and his Tinkoff-Saxo team has thrown down a challenge to their Grand Tour rivals by calling on them to go head to head in the 2015 Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.
Contador confirmed last Friday that the Giro d'Italia will be his first major goal in 2015, before he goes on to ride the Tour de France. Tinkoff-Saxo team owner Oleg Tinkov took to Twitter to challenge Contador's biggest rivals to take him on, while team manager Stefano Feltrin admitted he had spoken to other teams during the recent Vuelta a Espana about agreeing to field their team leaders in the same Grand Tours in 2015.
Tinkoff-Saxo hopes that Chris Froome (Team Sky), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and other Grand Tour team leaders will face off with Contador in the Giro and the Tour to make a fair contest.
"We proposed in an very informal way to the other teams. We believe the best riders should go up against each other in the biggest stage races in the calendar, it seems logical to us," Feltrin told Cyclingnews.
"It's a clear way to show who is the strongest rider in the sport. If Froome and Nibali also ride both the Giro and the Tour, it's good for the sport and there can be no excuses about who is the best Grand Tour rider."
One of the aims of the structural reforms of professional cycling scheduled for 2017 is to ensure the best riders compete in the sport's biggest races. At the moment, the best Grand Tour riders only go head to head in the Tour de France, with riders focusing on July or choosing between the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana as a second objective.
However when contacted by Cyclingnews, both Team Sky and Astana hesitated in taking up Contador's challenge.
Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford explained that the British team will do their planning 'in their own time'. This is expected to happen at the end of the season, when its new staff and riders have been confirmed. Team Sky has lost Bradley Wiggins as a stage race team leader for 2015 and also needs to understand if Richie Porte can recover from his health problems and be competitive again in Grand Tours.
Froome has not ridden the Giro d'Italia since 2010, preferring to focus on the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. However, the possible arrival of Nicolas Roche from Tinkoff-Saxo could give Team Sky new options.
Astana directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli is in favour of the best Grand Tour riders going head to head, but hinted that Nibali will defend his Tour de France title in 2015, with Fabio Aru likely to target the Giro d'Italia.
"I think it'd be good for the sport, I'd like to see it," he told Cyclingnews. "We'll probably only decide our rider's objectives in November when we get together as a team. However I think Nibali will perhaps defend his Tour de France victory, while Aru could again got for the Giro d'Italia."