Bernard Hinault believes that Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) can be successful in his bid to win the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in the same season. Hinault, who twice completed the Giro-Tour double himself in 1982 and 1985, says that with a month between the two Grand Tours there is enough time to recover.
"It is possible to win Giro and Tour in the same season. It would not be the first. You can perform at your best in the Giro and arrive at the start of the Tour at the maximum. There is sufficient separation between the three Grand Tours as it is configured in today's calendar," Hinault told Spanish newspaper AS.
Hinault went as far to say that winning all three Grand Tours, including the Vuelta a España, in a single season is also conceivable. "It's very complicated, but in theory it is possible. There are about four weeks of gap between each Grand Tour. Time enough to rest and even recover if you've had a mishap."
Perhaps that could be one for the future should Contador succeed in his challenge this season. No Grand Tour victory is ever easy but the prospect of winning the Giro d’Italia seems easier than that of the Tour. With one Grand Tour already in his legs, Contador will face a stronger field at the Tour de France and one that has been preparing solely for the French race - such as outgoing Giro d'Italia champion Nairo Quintana.
The Colombian is missing this year's Giro with his primary focus for 2015 the Tour de France - where he announced himself as a serious Grand Tour contender when he finished second there in 2013. Quintana's performances have been part of a Colombian revival in recent years but Hinault says it's too early to tell what his success means for the sport.
"Nairo Quintana is an extraordinary rider. In his youth he has already proved his quality in the Tour and has won a Giro. But today I think he is only best of his generation. It's still early," explained Hinault. "You cannot look for similarities with, for example, the appearance of [Lucho] Herrera and what it meant for Colombian cycling. There will be time in the future to evaluate what they (the Colombians) are achieving."
As one of France's few Grand Tour victors in recent years, talk then turned to the country's recent resurgence in the sport. The country has no real contenders for the overall victory at the Giro d'Italia but they saw three riders make the top 10 at the 2014 Tour de France, and all three will be returning to the race in July. Hinault thinks that they can challenge the more seasoned Grand Tour riders but says the element of surprise is key.
"There are various young riders in France, like those ones that you named (Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot) that have a great future and of course they will have their chance," he said. "This year? Perhaps. But they only have options if they are not limited to following wheels. If you think that arriving in a group is sufficient then you are wrong. They will only succeed if they surprise the favourites by attacking, from a distance if it is necessary."
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