It took me about five stages of the Tour de France to discover that riding a rival Grand Tour beforehand wasn't a good idea for my level of ability. The first three-week race usually turned out fine, but the second was a gradual descent into the depths of tiredness that my team managers of the moment seemed not to notice, or refused to, and the experiment continued all too often.
It's a predicament that cycling history tells us isn't rare at all, in fact it's only the exceptionally talented who can be in the battle for the podium when one Grand Tour is followed by another less than two months later. It's an even smaller subset that has won both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour in the same season, and yet every year when the presentations of the GTs happen somehow there's a collective amnesia of how trying to race both has turned out previously.
Before there was talk of how the Giro would be good training for the Tour de France, but those deluded days are long gone and the level required to be competitive is just as high in Italy as it is in France, with the consequences that the energy spent doing the first one isn't going to be available until a proper long rest period has been completed. And the usual six weeks from Giro end to Tour start isn't quite enough for most folks.
In 2019 it's only five, so you have to wonder if the immediate enthusiasm shown by certain teams for doubling up is a consequence of too much champagne at the launch party or just plain wishful thinking. More likely, it's a case of being polite and remembering the media training because you can hardly say, 'You've got to be joking, look at all the mountains', when you're standing there knocking back the complimentary drinks and eating the exquisite hors d'oeuvres. I shouldn't be so cynical.
Look at this year, for example, and how the double turned out for a number of riders.
First up has to be Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), who was second at the Giro, second at the Tour, and so obviously he has the capacity to cope with the workload. However, his team didn't, and therein lies one of the other requirements. A rider like Dumoulin needed backup riders to help in tricky situations, and when you take perspective of both races, wouldn't he have been better to concentrate on only one GT.
The only two other riders near team leader status, Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Wout Poels (Team Sky), rode both events, and though the Italian was Bahrain's number one in Italy, he was on domestique duties at the Tour. The Dutchman was in the wind each time.
Therefore, you have to take it with a pinch of scepticism when in the heat of the moment you hear any of the big players say they might ride the Giro and also the Tour de France. It's been 20 years since anyone has won both, and I don't see it being done anytime soon, as the planning of having a team leader strong enough and a supporting cast of a high enough level in each race is immense.
Hopefully, the other teams will have noticed that, but don't be surprised if there are still dreamers out there.
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