Robert Millar: Is it possible to win the Giro-Tour double?

Buy one get one free. Everybody loves a two-for-one deal; you get so much more for your money so I can see why Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) has been offered up as the latest promotion after someone at Tinkoff has had a marketing brain wave and decided that the publicity is worth the investment.

The €1 million incentive for potential rivals to join in says it all. “Come and be part of it, it'll be epic, historic, it might even be fun,” should read the slogan.

Conventional wisdom for those thinking about riding more than one three-week race in a season has been Giro then Vuelta or, for the unfortunate, Tour de France then Vuelta. Only the brave, punished or those who like the suffering ride all three. That's the real category that needs the million divided up between them, not the stars in the front fighting for the podium places. I was thinking it could be called the Adam Hansen trophy but I digress.

In all seriousness, there are 34 days between the end of the 2015 Giro and the start of the 102nd Tour de France, and you would think that's plenty of time to recover from one and then step into the ring for the next. Maybe in an ideal world it is, but a quick look through history tells us it rarely happens and there are many reasons for that.

First off, and it’s an obvious one, riding the Giro for the win could well cost way more energy than you bargained for. Bad weather, high mountains and rarely a flat day soon add up to being tired, and throw in a few transfers and a bounce down the road or two and your capacity to absorb the load is lessened.

That energy isn't a bottomless pit, so it's got to come from somewhere and the usual place is from your deep reserves. Once they are consumed they aren't replenished until you've had a proper long-term rest, far away from competition which those 34 days will never be. They can't be. Not when it's pre-Tour madness time, because there's too much going on, even if you don't have to go to the Dauphiné, Switzerland or ride your National Championships.

It's not just about the star men either. The guys who spend all day protecting them have to be up to the job so you need a quality squad. With the reduction in team numbers to 25 guys you only need a few riders sick, injured or somewhere else on the season planner to be struggling to put together a team capable of controlling a Grand Tour. The outright speciality that stage racing has now developed into means that the level of support has to be just as carefully planned and resourced as the number one rider's preparation.

It's a big ask of everyone and deep pockets are needed, and though Tinkoff-Saxo, Sky and Astana might have them, the Kazakhs have the Iglinskiy fall-out to deal with over the coming months.

It'll be interesting to see how Tinkoff go about planning the Giro-Tour challenge because the latest wisdom has seen the number of race days for the genuine contenders reduced to somewhere between 30 and 40 days of racing before the start of the Tour de France.

Once you take away the Giro stages, that doesn't leave very many days for competing elsewhere, so what will the early program be? Just a couple of five-dayers here and there with no Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico, and the rest of the time spent training at altitude?

Team Sky doesn’t send Chris Froome to many one-day races pre-Tour as it is, so will we now see Contador and Nibali doing the same? I can't see them wanting to miss out on the few one-day races that they can be competitive in, it's not their style. This is another factor, because neither can contain himself when an opportunity comes along. They don't wait for the time trial and then go for it. The prospect of Contador and Nibali racing each other at the Giro should have Chris Froome rubbing his hands with glee because once they've knocked lumps out of each other in Italy things will be a lot easier for him come the Tour de France.

I honestly can't see Nibali getting dragged into a Giro -Tour extravaganza with Contador, much better that he lets Fabio Aru take responsibility for Italian honour and that he saves his strength for the return of Froome and a beefed up Team Sky at the Tour.

Noticeably, Sky have stayed well out of the two tours debate and they've been quietly reinforcing their Grand Tour squads with some very talented riders. Though they've been pretending some of those new signings might also be for the other races, the reality is they'll be at the Tour de France with a group of riders more than capable of matching the Astana and Tinkoff teams on every terrain. That's all the clue you need for whether the Giro-Tour double is a good idea or not.


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Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey.

Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.