Giro d'Italia race director Mauro Vegni has said that he is hopeful Chris Froome will line up at next year's edition of the corsa rosa, which gets underway from Jerusalem on May 4, but he dismissed the idea that the route will be designed with the aim of attracting the Team Sky rider to the race.
Last week, Froome became only the third rider in history to win the Tour de France and Vuelta a España in the same year, and the Briton now has the rare opportunity to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time, a feat last achieved by Bernard Hinault when he won the Giro-Tour double in 1982 and then claimed the Vuelta the following spring.
Froome has not raced the Giro since his first season at Sky in 2010 when he was disqualified from the race for holding onto a police motorbike on the ascent of the Mortirolo. In the intervening period, Froome made a belated and surprising transition into a Grand Tour contender, winning the Tour de France in four of the past five years.
Speaking in Jerusalem after presenting next year's Israeli Grande Partenza on Monday, Vegni said that he was optimistic that Froome could be persuaded to tackle the Giro in 2018. Vegni will meet with representatives from Sky and other teams at this week's World Championships in Bergen, though he stressed that it was not simply a question of providing an attractive appearance fee or an amenable course.
"We're talking, but as you know, it's not a matter of economics, despite what some people think. For a rider like that, money doesn't change his life. He must have a project in mind, and we're working on motivating him," Vegni told Cyclingnews. "He's a rider who's won the Tour and the Vuelta, and now he could be the first rider to win the Tour, Vuelta and Giro in succession [since the Grand Tour calendar changed in 1995 – ed.] That could be a motivation for him. I'm hopeful.
"I remember speaking to Froome before and I told him to do at least one Giro aiming for the win before he retired. He did it years ago, but not with a good result. He said he would do it, but I told him not to wait until he was forty..."
Froome has already confirmed that winning a fifth Tour title will be his priority in 2018, and recent history has underlined the difficulty of attempting the Giro-Tour double. In recent years, both Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana have fallen well short at the Tour after riding the Giro to win, though Vegni downplayed the idea that Froome might be discouraged from racing the Giro as a result.
"He doesn't need to do the double: he's already won four Tours, so what double does he need to do?" Vegni said. "No, he needs to do the treble – he's won the Tour, he's won the Vuelta and now he has to win the Giro to write history by winning all three Grand Tours in a row."
Fewer time trial kilometres in 2018
The full route of the 2018 Giro is not due to be unveiled until November, and while Vegni refused to divulge any specific details of the planned parcours, he suggested that there will be fewer time trialling kilometres than there were in 2017, when Tom Dumoulin took full advantage of the 68 kilometres against the watch to lay the foundations of his overall win.
"Today the margins are so tight that you don't need very many kilometres of time trialling to make a big difference," Vegni said. "When the level is very high and the high mountains don't succeed in separating the favourites like before, time trials can weigh very heavily on the overall result, so you have to dose those time trial kilometres very carefully. In any case, you never design a Grand Tour for one rider in particular, because he might not even turn up."
With the 2018 Tour de France set to start a week later than normal in order to avoid a clash with the World Cup, there will be six weeks rather than the usual five between the Giro and the Tour, but in the future, Vegni would prefer to reduce the gap between the two Grand Tours to a month or less.
"In the past, riders wanted a bigger gap between the Giro and the Tour because they felt they needed more time to rest. Now if you listen to trainers, they'll say that it would be better to shorten the gap between the Giro and the Tour because it makes it easier to maintain form over a long period," Vegni said. "I'll be requesting to shorten the gap, both for that reason and because delaying the Giro by a week would mean doing the high mountains in early June instead of in May, and there would be less of a risk with the weather."
Israel to Sicily?
The 2018 Giro will take an early rest day as it travels from Israel to Italy after stage 4, and it seems all but certain that the race will resume in Catania in Sicily on Tuesday, May 8. It would mark the Giro's second visit to Sicily in as many years, and a report in Monday's edition of Il Giornale di Sicilia suggested that there will be no fewer than three Sicilian stages, including a summit finish at Mount Etna on stage 6 that would bring the riders to the finish via the steeper Valentino approach.
Wherever the Giro ultimately lands on its return from Israel, Vegni said that the logistics behind the first-ever Grand Tour start outside of Europe will not be altogether different from those required to bring the race to Ireland in 2014, the Netherlands in 2016 or even Sardinia last year.
"We already have a background in these things, the only real difference is the length of the flights and the ferry crossing. Obviously going from Cagliari to Palermo is one thing, and going from Tel Aviv to, who knows, Venice, is something else, but the model is the same," Vegni said.
Vegni also reiterated his belief that security concerns would not be an issue when the Giro caravan visits Israel next May. "This is the fourth or fifth time I've been in Israel, I've never encountered any problems. And on the other hand, if you look at Europe, five days ago, there was an attack on the London Underground, there have been attacks on Barcelona, Nice, and Paris in recent years. The battleground, so to speak, seems to be in Europe more than it is here," he said.
"The Israelis want to present their country in a different light to the way it is often depicted. It's like the experience we've had with Sicily, where people would simply associate Sicily with the mafia, but we could show them that Sicily is also culture, history, tourism, good cuisine, good people."