Stephen Roche: Giro-Tour double is still possible

We’re a few days into the Giro now, but it’s still too early to say which riders are going to emerge as the likely contenders. I know Joaquim Rodríguez is in a good position after Katusha did so well to finish just behind Garmin in the team time trial, but the key to victory in this race is not what happens now but what happens in the final week in the Dolomites. I’ve got no doubt that a lot of riders are holding themselves back until the final week.

At the moment, it’s difficult to pick out who might be the favourites going into the final week. Looking at the start list, Fränk Schleck’s name jumps out. But what was he doing last week? He didn’t even know then that he was going to be riding the Giro, so it’s difficult to know what kind of form he will be in when we’re two weeks into the race. Being called up to the Giro so late in the day could turn out to be very good because he hasn’t had time to worry about the race and he’s also had no media pressure on him.

I’m sure he’s feeling more relaxed than he would do if he had been preparing for this race for some time, and that could work to his benefit. Other than Fränk Schleck, there are not really any other guys who stand out. I know Basso is riding, but he hasn’t really done much so far this year, so it’s hard to see how he might perform. It’s a similar situation with Scarponi. We’ll get some indications over this coming weekend about likely contenders, but the real clues won’t come until the weekend after.

I know there has been some talk recently about whether it is still possible to win the Giro and Tour in the same year. Alberto Contador said the other day that he thought this year’s Giro and Tour would have suited him if he had been targeting the double. I agree with him. I think the double is still possible. One key thing in favour of riders now is that the time gap between the end of the Giro and the start of the Tour is longer now than when I won them both in 1987. Back then the gap was just 18 days, but now it’s a little more than a month.

I think achieving the double depends largely on how you manage yourself in between the Giro and the Tour. If you are targeting the double, I think that you’ve got to forget about the Tour de Suisse or the national championships. I know that a lot of riders come out of the Giro with an eye on the national championships, which come three weeks later, but I don’t think it’s possible to include the Nationals in your programme if you’ve won the Giro and then have your sights set on the Tour. When you come out of the Giro, you’ve got to ease off a bit, then work your way back up, and I don’t think it’s possible to do that for the Nationals and then do it again for the Tour. If you try that you’re putting too much pressure on yourself. You would have to keep putting the training miles in, and I think that would impact on your form when you reached the Tour.

If you do manage your time well between the Giro and the Tour, then the double is certainly possible. I guess one advantage that I had was that when I won the Giro back in 1987, the Irish national championship didn’t really feature on the radar of the leading Irish pros.

I’d love to see riders making an attempt on the double. Miguel Indurain showed on a number of occasions that you can take advantage of a strong ride at the Giro to set yourself up for the Tour. In fact, it could be argued riders who do that are taking pressure off themselves. If you win the Giro, you’re sure to be more relaxed going into the Tour with such a big success behind you, as well as being very motivated.

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In 1987, Stephen Roche won the Giro d'Italia on his way to a famous Triple Crown. Later that year he added the Tour de France and the Road World Championships in what one of the most dominant seasons of the last 30 years. The Irishman always says things how he sees them and is notoriously outspoken on the sport's biggest issues. The Giro d'Italia is a race very close to his heart, and here he shares his thoughts on the 2012 renewal.