Oleg Tinkov’s Indecent Proposal

Oleg Tinkov
Oleg Tinkov’s offer of a million Euros to ride all three grand tours has grabbed a lot of attention. It sounds good but anyone brave enough to take up the challenge could well finish the year out of pocket. It’s madness… but he does have a point.

Some headlines say “Chris Froome offered €1m Grand Tour challenge by Oleg Tinkov“. But see what Tinkov actually said and it’s a €1 million pot to be shared among four riders: Alberto Contador, Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana. €250,000 per rider. Great, but that’s 10% or less of the pay of a champion cyclist.

It’s hard enough to win the Tour de France when all is going well but imagine starting the Tour with the Giro having gone badly? Robert Millar puts it well on cyclingnews.com:

“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”

I think the Giro-Tour double is possible. Whether it’s advisable is another matter. It’s like climbing K2 and Annapurna in the same year: it can done it but it’s risky. Right now it’s reasonable to imagine Nibali, Froome and Quintana all believe they can win the Tour de France next summer, drawing comfort from the idea Contador will show up tired in Utrecht. If they accepted the €250,000 and rode the Giro before the Tour they’d reduce their chances of success in July and with that, damaging their opportunity of wearing the golden fleece, the maillot jaune. You go from believing you can win the Tour de France to doubting it and €250,000 isn’t enough to compensate.

All this assumes Tinkov would actually pay up. First the Russian tried calling the likes of Chris Froome a chicken on Twitter, now he’s given a quote on the margins of the Giro launch mentioning a million Euros. One quote and it’s gone around the world.

It’s one thing to say it to a journalist. Payment is another. Remember how Tinkov promised Rafał Majka an Aston Martin if he would win two stages in the Tour, suddenly it was all a joke.”
– Patick Lefevere, Het Nieuwsblad

OPQS Lefevere’s waspish words have a point. Tinkov’s a shrewd operator who hasn’t become a billionaire by accident or politics connections… but in part thanks to publicity and provocation. His “indecent proposal” sounds more fun than funded. “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” then Tinkov’s tool is a wad of money, a tendency to throw cash at the problem.

A grand tour contender on the cobbles? As rare as a wet Paris-Roubaix

Oleg’s got a point
Look beyond the money and attempts to blunt the legs of Contador’s rivals for July and there’s a serious point: the world’s biggest bike races regularly lack the best riders. This year’s Vuelta was an exception with so many stars but the Giro and Vuelta regularly resemble the Italian and Spanish stage racing championships, such is their tendency to attract domestic riders. The Tour de France gets the stars.

Imagine tennis where the grand slams see only one or two stars taking part because they’re too tired? Or the biggest golf tournaments bereft of the biggest golfers? It doesn’t happen. But they’re not endurance sports and in marathon running athletes have to pick their events wisely, ditto Ironman. That’s the problem, the grand tours are so gruelling that they can’t be combined without problems. Meanwhile the sport is so varied that it has niches and specialisms, to expect Alberto Contador to ride Paris-Roubaix is like asking marathon record holder Dennis Kimetto to run the 400 metres or throw a javelin in the name of “seeing the stars compete together”, it’s more circus than sport.

There’s one solution to solve the Tinkov dilemma: make the Giro and Vuelta more prestigious, more valuable so that participation and victory becomes as valuable as the Tour. Some say the Giro and Vuelta should be shrunk to two weeks so riders can do all three grand tours but a shorter Giro or Vuelta is a lesser race and this only strengthens the Tour’s place as cycling’s ultimate prize. So how do we make the Giro and Vuelta more valuable than the Tour? Offer €1 million to Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana if they agree not to ride the Tour.

74 thoughts on “Oleg Tinkov’s Indecent Proposal”

  1. I like the sentiment of seeing year-round participation but 250K EUR/rider is a spectacularly poor amount of money for athletes at the top of their sport in an already stacked calendar

    • A weeks wages in some sports.

      which would be cheap to Tinkoff if Contador’s rivals took the bait and turned up tired to TDF. And with a magical illness preventing AC from competing in the Giro the icing on the cake……

  2. Tinkoff (or someone backing Giro / Vuelta) could offer a million to a rider who makes the podiums on two of three GC’s, one of them being le Tour, or something in this sense. He would not risk too much, it’s rather rare, but it might inspire some star(s).
    I do not regard shortening of Giro and Vuelta as a good idea either. Maybe Vuelta could be shifted by a week later, the often extremely high temperatures at its beginning should reduce and there would be more time to recover after TdF. If someone wants to have a two-weeks stage race, maybe some 2.HC or 2.1 race could be made longer.

    • I doubt if starting a week later would make much difference to temperatures in the Vuelta, it all depends on the route anyway. This year’s race did start in extreme temperatures but it did remain in Andalucia for a week, whereas as soon as the race headed north conditions were altogether different. The other problem with delaying by a week is that there would be a week less recovery before the World’s.

      But I agree with you that both the Giro and Vuelta should remain at 3 weeks.

      • Better solution would be to swap positions of Giro and Vuelta in the calendar. Cooler in Spain in the spring, less chance of snow -cancelled stages at the Giro later in the year.

        • It makes sense, but of course RCS won’t give up the Giro’s prime position. This year has been somewhat of an exception, but the Vuelta is too often an afterthought to the season made up of the hopeful second raters, the previously injured and those just trying to build for the next season.

          • Also swapping the two races would make the spanish pyrenees and southern Italy equally problematic to visit, potentially being too cold and too hot respectively

    • Where do you put another two week stage race in the calendar, though? There are smaller races that go on for that long (The Tour de Lnagkawi is 10 days) but in Europe, at the highest level, I think three GTs and a host of one week races offers a good balance.

      Also don’t forget that a one week race is 8 stages, I don’t really see the value or appeal in a 15 day race with one rest day. It would be a poor middle ground between the two.

      • The value of one two-weeks (cca) race would be to check the ability of young GC riders / climbers to ride the GTs in future. Could be even an U23 race. It is often told that such a young guy (this year e. g. Formolo) is not yet eligible for 3-weeks GT, he could burn out, would be risky, too soon, etc. That’s why I was thinking about a compromise.
        The overlaps in lower category are common (look at pcs pages mid-season, 5-7 races a weekend day), I do not see it as a big problem.

    • That sounds like a good idea.

      You could do it like this:
      Winning all three grand tours: The Cannibal Award – $50 million
      Winning one, top three in the other two : The Badger Award – $10 million
      Top three in all three : The M. Chrono Award – $3 million
      Top ten in all three: The Big Mig – $100,000

      ASO and RCS should be able to find a long term sponsor for this, because the actual costs will be really small.

  3. Heard about this on the radio last night. Two initial thoughts were that:

    a) A million isnt that much for Froome (and as it turns out, 250k even less so)

    b) It’s Tinkov, so it’s just his usual brinksmanship, no? It benefits him more to have Froome ride all three tours and be weakened as a result. At present, Sky don’t have a second grand tour contender with Uran and Wiggins gone and the supporting cast a top 10 at best. Meanwhile Tinkov has two in Majka and Contador

    It would be nice to see someone try to win all three, but certainly not just for the financial incentive.

  4. I believe the 3 GT can be done in the same year if there is 6 weeks between each other and minimum transfer times/distances between stages. More about logistic time/recovery than other stuff.

    • If you are saying, can be completed, yes. See Adam Hansen. I think the Vuelta was his 10th in a row. And, he picked up good results along the way.

      If you are saying, can podium, then that’s a different question. IMO, the answer is it’s not likely one can podium all three.

      Cycling needs hucksters like Tinkov. Cycling is lucky if this much buzz is ever created outside of the perpetual corruption and mysterious politics of the UCI. Still, I agree with your insightful opinions.

  5. You see the way I read it, all 4 would need to do all 3 GTs in order to qualify for 1/4 of the cash;

    “If Quintana, Froome, Nibali and Contador all agree to ride all three Grand Tours, I’ll get Tinkoff Bank to put up €1 million. They can have €250,000 each as an extra incentive. I think it’s a good idea,”

    So if one of them pulls out last minute from the Vuelta then that’s his get out clause…….

    On the other hand from a riders point of view they only have to ride. Froome could ride the Giro in support of Porte but not need to dig deep, ie ride for training towards the Tour?

  6. I like Lefevere (and other’s) suggestion of shorter Giro and Vuelta and I think it would do the sport good. I get it’s a tradition to have 3-week tours, but that tradition combined with an increase in speed combined with multiple races combined with…combined with…has brought to being the current situation: the stars go to the Tour, the rest hope for better. It is time to let go of tradition, which in this case it holding us back, and look to a brighter future.
    I personally think that the second week of racing both in Giro and Vuelta is boring. I’d prefer to see the stars at 2 great tours, one longer, one shorter + a bunch of one week-tours. Plus, this would open the calendar for perhaps a fourth 2-weeks tour, maybe in US.
    Can 2,3 long tours can be done, but can any of them be also won? There’s a reason why Adam Hansen can ride multiple tours in a year: he contests 1 maybe 2 stages. The rest he, especially with Lotto, he can ride groupetto if he wants to or do little work. A GC guy contests several stages, plus they have to stay (with their team) to the front to control the peloton. Not really the same thing, is it?

  7. This gave me an idea (probably one that has been shot down at some point). As part of the proposed reforms of cycling you introduce a new jersey/prize for the rider which has the lowest cumulative time accross all 3 Grand Tours.

    Advantage being it gives the season long narrative that the WorldTour currently lacks and equalises to some degree the stature of the Tours.

    Would probably need Golf’s FedEx Cup level of prize money/sponsorship to make it interesting to the big boys still though.

    • Can’t see that this would work, not that many riders start all three tours. You would have to discount anyone that misses or fails to finish a tour becuase they would automatically have a lower time.

      You’d probably end up with half a dozen riders eligible by the end of the third tour.

    • I don’t see how this could be exciting or what sporting value it would have. It would at best be like the best team, best young rider or the World-Tour Classement. All nice, getting money, standing on a podium, but nobody would really ride for that, except there is nothing else to gain. And in the end a rider who was 101. at the Giro, 167. at the Tour and 91. at the Vuelta wins, because he managed to stay healthy, had the luck and the racing calender to finish all 3 GTs. It would be nice for him, but I doubt it would make any difference and would soon be one more forgotten jersey.

      • Only possible winner most years. You have to go back to 2008 to find the last time more than 1 rider completed all 3, then 1992 before that.

  8. I don’t think offering Nibali, Froome and Quintana money not to ride the Tour would make the Giro or Vuelta more attractive – it would more likely mean they were considered simply less star-worthy in future compared to the riders who did ride the Tour and became champions. Consider that Nibali has won all three Grand Tours, while Froome has only won the Tour, once, and yet Nibali’s win the Tour this year has been described as being ‘asterisked’ because Froome (and Contador) crashed out – suggesting Froome is still seen as a bigger ‘star’ than Nibali, and both are surely bigger stars than Quintana?

    • The “it’s the race that makes the rider, not the rider that makes the race” argument is always valid. I suppose if you had to drop €1m then the alternative above could work better but it’s a modest proposal in itself.

    • You can only beat the riders who manage to stay on the road with you, froome and contador couldn’t do that this year. I see nibali as a deserving winner, he dominated the mountains, the time trial, and even the cobbles. He won in both countries, every mountain range, and never lost time to any rivals. Nibali rode the perfect tour, regardless of who he faced along the way

  9. The whole deal is ludicrous. Brilliant by Oleg. The guy is a marketing savant. He hasn’t spent a dime and his name and team get splashed everywhere ad nauseam. Not hatin the player. I get it. The Tour de France is and should be our premier event. I am passionate about the Giro and have absolutely grown to love the Vuelta over the years. I don’t want them reduced. They should all be grueling events. I want them that way. Attempting to win them all or even two should be asinine. But I want one event, that those believing their worthy of winning, key on, prepare for and show up to driven to succeed. Cycling is chaotic throughout the year. So many variables have to fall in place for so many people and teams and with a liberal dose of luck to even have a chance and the fans to get their ideal scenario. But we are always guaranteed to get the absolute best that can possibly be had when the time comes. And it’s amazing. It’s the imperfections that provide character. And we still have plan B herculean tests that highlight riders we wouldn’t have given enough credit to were it not for situations allowing them to shine. We’re so worried about tweaking everything and making it better or even arrogantly perfecting it. Let it ride. It’s by far the greatest sport on the planet.

  10. while seeing these 4 go against each other would be awesome, I don’t think it would happen. Froome and Quintana are definitely doing the tour next year, Nibali is the defending champion too, so those 3 will be there.

    Nibali will definitely ride the giro and vuelta in the future, and I can see quintana doing the same, but not next year. none of these 4 can win the tour if he wants all 4 to ride the giro. A time-trial filled tour will draw froome towards it, a climby one will pull quintana.

    While I want the same thing Oleg wants, he’s gonna need more than money to convince these guys

  11. He should take a leaf out of Armstrong’s book and offer, say, 10mio if someone can win all three GT’s. Insuring against having to pay up would cost very little and he might actually get some takers.

    • Tinkov would probably refuse to stomp up, claiming that Nibz, Froome or Nairo were doping (not HIS guy obviously…perish the thought)

      This is after all a publicity whore who has a history of chucking around accusations left right and centre on Twitter

  12. So Oleg wants the stars racing all 3 events. Yet we can’t even get them to all race one! Let’s start there first. And then once we have them all lined up let’s see if we can get them to all finish! So far Froome, Contador and Quintana haven’t even stayed on their bikes. Just having 4 stars battling it out in the last week might deserve €1M.

  13. The 3 Grand Tours are the pillars the season stands on. Something like a compass for the season. Every pocket before, inbetween and after these 3 has their own feeling, targets, identity and flow. If the Vuelta or the Giro would be like any other stagerace, only 2 or 3 days longer, the whole season would loose. Although I enjoy almost every race throughout the year and not every Grand Tour has the best racing of the season, EVERY YEAR I can’t wait for them to come and feel a little lost when they are finished, especially after the Vuelta, when the Giro is still so far away! I hope these 3 races will exist as Grand Tours for a long, long time.

  14. I’m not sure anything needs to change really. There’s just no way for the Giro or Vuelta to overtake the Tour and it’s almost as unlikely that they can catch up.

    But we have something fairly unique for sport, which is the pinnacles of the competition being won by three different riders, that change year on year. In too many sports it’s the same team or the same people winning the top competitions or the same few. I like the fact that it’s not the same guy winning each of the three each year, fiddling the calendar to make doubles or triples more possible will change that and I think that would be to the detriment of the sport rather than the benefit.

  15. “…the world’s biggest bike races regularly lack the best riders. This year’s Vuelta was an exception with so many stars but the Giro and Vuelta regularly resemble the Italian and Spanish stage racing championships, such is their tendency to attract domestic riders”.
    I feel this sentence’s sense has long entered its statute of limitations time.
    It was indisputably *true* some ten years ago, but from 2005 on it began to become more and more sort of a self-referential *truism*. The best riders ride the Tour, since the riders who ride the Tour are the best riders.
    If you look at winners and podia, it’s not as self-evident as we would think when we just consider the huge difference in terms of marketing and money between the TdF and the rest.

    I suspect that the TdF on the whole has an higher profile (obviously enough), but in Italy we’re way far from any kind of national championship as it was, say, from 1999 to 2005.
    At least, because after those years more than half of the riders who were fighting for the Maglia Rosa were NOT Italian (and the same goes for winners). The Vuelta’s percentage is slightly more hispanocentric (15 Spanish riders vs. 12 Rest of the World on the podium, 5 vs. 4 winners), but we should consider that some of the best stage racers are, indeed, Spaniards.

    I think that the subject deserves more reflection… (not a rhetorhical statement).

    • I agree that the issue of the Tour’s pre-eminence is less of a problem than it used to be, and that the Giro in particular is doing just fine right now. I think we have seen a pattern in recent years that is likely to continue, where the racing in the Giro is more open and exciting than the Tour, with the prize being easily attractive enough to make the whole thing compare favorably with the Tour de France. Winning tactics in the Tour can often seem to be intended to prevent entertainment from happening. So long as the TDF has a higher profile it will attract the best riders sometimes to the detriment of the Giro, but “better racing” has to be one of the more straightforward and preferred ways for the Giro to improve its status.

  16. Who are the “top GT riders”? I’d say those who have won at least one GT and got at least a couple of podia, POSSIBLY elsewhere. Inrng has stressed the word “regularly” in his post, so I’d like to do the same to set aside those rider who weren’t GT “regulars” and maybe shone just some months in this speciality. I’d consider the original final GC, without ex post changes, because the intention here is to analyse the a priori level of presence by motivated top figures, not the more or less “high moral values” 😉 of those riders – besides, it would be much more complicated ^__^

    I think that Contador, Evans, Menchov, Froome, Nibali, Basso, Sastre were that kind of riders during the last nine years (2006-2014).

    I’ve got some strong doubts about Andy Schleck, especially now that his career is officially over and we can see what he got of it (not as much as we could expect): despite his second place in the Giro, he was very Tour-centric; and, arguably, he never won a GT, in the sense defined above…
    I’ve got similar problems with Purito, since he doesn’t responde to the “definition” I chose, but he showed he was able to fight in all the GTs (his attitude in this sense has been a lot better than Andy’s), he lost a couple of them who were “already won” in very painful ways.
    Maybe I should include Quintana, too, whose value appears higher than his palmarés due to age reasons.
    And what about Lance? We’ll see.

    However, all the above mentioned riders but Froome, Lance and maybe Andy (should we consider 2007 as a real attempt, or was it something that just *happened*?) tried a serious shot at the Giro from 2006 on and got at least a podium in Italy – or won.
    Maybe their podium was a failure, for some of them, but, all in all, they played their cards in the Giro and that’s what matters now.
    I didn’t include Wiggo (sorry, his GT spell was too short and complicated by various factors, IMHO), but it’s worth noting he tried his luck in Italy, too, even if it was an ill-starred attempt.

    6 out of 9 Giros were won by top GT riders, 7 if we include Quintana. It’s 7 out of 9 for the Tour.
    Not an impressive difference.

    Some may argue that the difference will be more decisive when we consider the “average level” on the podium.
    Well, 10 out of the 27 possible podium places of the Giro were occupied by those top GT riders, 12 if we include Quintana and Purito, 13 if we include Schleck, too, 14 if we include even Simoni (hard to say he’s not a top GT rider, with 3 GT wins and FIVE podia, the problem is that it was “all pink”, and personally I don’t appreciate this element).
    During the same years, at the Tour, 12 out of 27 podium places went to the basic list of top GT riders, 14 if we include Quintana and Purito, 15 if we include Armstrong, too. And 18 with Andy.

    What I see here is a notable difference, indeed, but not so incredible as I myself expected (for example, when I was writing my previous commentary).
    More than everything, it can be appreciated how the idea of the “higher level” of the Tour is boosted precisely when we include riders whose “flaw” was their focus on the Tour.
    It is specifically Andy Schleck who unbalances the comparison the most: it’s interesting to make this reflection precisely today, when he’s announcing his retirement.
    Make your judgement on Andy, and you’ll have a significantly lesser or greater difference in the “measurement” of the disparity between Giro and Tour (I’m exaggerating a bit 🙂 ).

    All considered, even if the numbers may vary a lot depending on everyone’s decision about this or that rider, looking at these data I feel that the inrng judgement was quite unfair, at least if we’re speaking of the *new* Giro of the last nine years.

    PS What about the Vuelta? 5 out of 9 victories for top riders, 11 out of 27 podium spots for the “basic list”, 13 with Purito. Here what would be a big change has a name and a surname: Alejandro Valverde. Kind of Simoni 🙂 but the difference with the Italian is that the Spaniard’s career falls perfectly in the years we’re considering.
    PS2 Sorry if I got some numbers wrong, with all the re-writing of CG there’s some confusion out there. Corrections are appreciated.

    • A really interesting analysis, thank you. But the GC is only part of the fun in a grand tour (albeit the part Tinkov is interested in here). Does the same analysis hold when you look at sprinters too?

      One way of looking at things is the procyclingstats ranking of races: http://www.procyclingstats.com/rankings/PCS_Ranking_2014_10_09_Races This is based on the ranking points of all the participants (though I don’t know if they take account of points won in that race itself). The Tour is regularly ahead of the other races, with the WCs as it’s only real competitor. THe other GTs are usually a bit further behind, at a similar level to the Monuments.

      • I think you won’t be surprised at all if I tell you that I generally love PCS and the likes 😉

        The fact that, as you say, the topic is mainly GC (sprinters don’t have many troubles appearing in more than one GT, or even in the three; they actually do that, and may even be able to get multiple victories. Nor we can say that the top sprinters usually avoid the Giro as we feel that the Tour’s top GC riders would do, whereas it’s true that if the Worlds aren’t flat the sprinters’ field is less competitive at the Vuelta), *that fact*, urged me to look at the problem from a different point of view, since a tool like PCS is at the same time too detailed and too comprehensive, here.

        If we look at the PCS classification the results may seem “odd” because they have to achieve some kind of powerful synthesis, which must be necessarily corrected when reading the data to have them making sense. For example, the Ardenne classics (not to speak about Lombardia) have way more points that the pavé ones, but we can’t say, just because of that, that they always have a more qualified field. It’s just that a lot of GT riders who score a lot of points elsewhere appear there (with more or less of an impact on the race…). And a very qualified field in a Roubaix is a field made of Roubaix riders who may not be scoring much points all year long (the same goes for Flanders, even if to a minor extent), while Amstel or País Vasco may get a good bonus by “heavy” GT riders who – not always but often – may just be there to train or to accomplish their duties towards the team. Hence, PCS is very useful to study the evolution of the value of a single race throughout the years, but not as much to compare different races.

        Speaking more specifically of Giro and Tour, a classification like PCS may be biased by the fact that, being the Tour… *the Tour*, there are riders without GC hopes but who are… good at winning (i.e., with more points) that may go there just to hunt stages. But – especially in the last years with no time bonuses and other tactical changes – the struggle to win the stage doesn’t affect so much the competitivity of the GC. And the best is that some big riders are sent there just to stroll around and make the sponsor happy! (Cancellara this year is not a rara avis: and he throw a lot of PCS point in the Tour just by himself).
        On the contrary, sometimes, a team filled of good gregarios (but “poor winners”) can be useful to create an hellish race in hilly terrains and set a more selective GC than a “team of winners”: winning acceleration and fondo seldom go together. Think of Giro 2013, with the previous Tour’s winner on the start line, and a quite good final GC with the likes of Nibali, Evans, Urán, Majka… Nibali’s team there wasn’t exactly shiny in terms of PCS points, but made up for a good whilst not-so-visible work (more or less what happened in the Tour 2014). In PCS terms they didn’t boost the puntuation of that race, who is eventually quite low.

        But I don’t think we need to elaborate anymore on the subject… I was just defending that the Giro isn’t any national championship as it maybe was some ten years ago 😉 – no doubt that the top GT is the Tour (and my simple/simplistic survey confirmed that, anyway). I just saw a problem in the iteration of a commonplace which may end up fulfilling itself, whereas reality has gone through a good shift and now is more nuanced and complex than during the Armstrong’s era.

  17. I think Contador is deep-down-inside sure the double victory is more than possible, and the triple not to be ruled out. And I also think Froome and Nibali are not certain of the contrary. (And perhaps it will dawn on Valverde he can be 3rd in all 3 GTs in the same year, as well as in all 5 monuments, and the Worlds, which would make him the most successful 3rd placer ever).
    When Hinault said he would’ve won Giro, Tour, and Vuelta if at his time they were raced in today’s order, I think he was not bluffing.

  18. I completely understand riders and teams targeting the races that they have the best chance of winning, it’s only logical. But sometimes it feels a bit like boxing where the heavyweights avoid the big confrontations – afraid to lose, which is also a way to characterise their often overly-defensive racing. And they can pad their palmares’ and confidence in a smorgasbord of races in which they are known to be the fastest.

    Tinkov’s proposal is just a blatant attention-grab of course, but the idea of multiple, genuine heavyweight prize fights featuring all the top riders – not just for GC riders, but sprinters and classics riders too – that is appealing (to me at least). Whether or how that could actually work in practice is another matter: the calendar and incentive structure would need to change significantly so that riders would be ready, more than willing and able to go head-to-head not only on Sundays in April or in France in July.

  19. Is the Giro-Tour double possible? Contador is possibly the only rider capable. 2011 was the best case study when he won the Giro on a ridiculously hard parcours and then finished 5th at the Tour after crashing a couple of times in the first week. Most cyclists seem to agree the Tour-Vuelta double is a touch easier as the end-of-season Vuelta isn’t ridden quite as hard. Froome in 2012 is a good case study after coming 2nd at the Tour before coming 4th in the Vuelta after fading in the third week.

    A personal suggestion: push back the tour by 1-2 weeks, as it’s impossible to push the Giro forward with the threat of inclement weather. Bastille Day can occur in the first week and with a good batch of French sprinters we may get a French winner. Perhaps make the Vuelta a 2 week event so that it remains more prestigious than the likes of the Dauphine and Suisse but remains in the shadows of the other Grand Tours.

  20. If part of what makes the Giro and Vuelta so gruelling the cold and hot weather respectively, has any thought ever been given to switching these two events around in the calendar?

    Is the Stelvio less likely to be closed in September and Spain less likely to suffer 38 degree heat in May?

  21. Whaat? Has everyone collectively lost their minds? Great idea – let’s suggest a preposterous & pretty much impossible physical challenge spiced by the temptation of loads of money on offer. Sure, that’ll definitely not encourage a return to the bad old days of doping. Hold on, it’s been put forward by a man whose champion has previously been banned for dope and whose team has question marks over its management? Oh, and another champion’s team has just withdrawn itself from races because of dope. My only surprise is that no one is talking up Chris Horner’s chances of winning all three.
    Let’s not forget that these races are being made progressively ‘easier’ because we got to a stage where the physical challenge broke even good people to the point of doping. Let’s keep it real.

    • I was wondering if this topic would invite talk of doping. Remember the 100m in athletics has been rife with doping and nobody’s calling for the race to be shortened…

      …But money is an incentive to win at all costs and such is the fatigue of the riders in a grand tour that maybe some do crack and search for illicit help.

      • It’s not money when guys will dope to “win” a GranFondo or a salami in a local race. Cheaters are those who fail to understand the purpose of SPORT, money has nothing to do with it.

  22. Dear Robert Millar’s comments are disingenious, because it was precisely his inability to perform well in 2 GTs in the same year (as we saw in 1985, 86, and 87) that was the biggest difference between him and superior contemporaries such as Fignon, Roche, Delgado and others, and that might explain his personal vision. I personally like to see the difference between the guys who can assimilate 2 (or 3) GTs in the same year, at competitive level, and those who cannot. That is one of the reasons why Armstrong never played nearly in the same league as Merckx and Hinault, and why Tinkov’ and Contador’s challenge is meaningful.

  23. I’m surprised that no-one has mentioned shortening all 3 of the tours… Not in terms of stages, but in terms of the distance of the race. Each GT is current c3,500 kms long. Make them all no longer than, say 2,900 kms and no stage longer than 180 kms.

    We’ve seen some of the best stages recently being the shorter ones anyway. I think that would make the potential for riders ‘competing’ at all 3 more realistic.

      • Which I thought was the result of long, long stages being seen as a reason for riders looking to “enhance” their performance capabilities around the time of the Festina scandal etc.

  24. The marathon comparison is an apt one.

    The World Marathon Majors consists of the 6 biggest marathons: Tokyo, London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago, New York. In WC or Olympic years they add those too, to make 7. There is an annual prize for the runner who has the best results in the majors. But they don’t expect the top runners to take part in more than 2 of the races in any one year, so (a) the prize is based on performances over 2 seasons, and (b) only your 4 best results count.

    A similar approach to cycling’s GTs would be to award a prize based on your 3 top performances over the last 2 seasons. On that basis, Nibali would be the 2013 champ ahead of Froome and Rodriguez, and also the 2014 champ ahead of Froome and Quintana.

    • I don’t think you can compare cycling to Tennis or Marathon. I think no one does more than 4 or 5 marathons in a season (probably less), whereas the riders ride every week! And in cycling you have so many races that have a huge standing, tradition and meaning and winning them is a life’s dream, whereas in Tennis if we are honest, they only have the Grand Slams, their championship and the Olympics. Any other tournament interests- if at all -only the locals. In cycling EVERYBODY knows what to win Paris-Roubaix means. No, we need all 3 GTs and an end to this globalization madness, where the whole peloton gets shiped around the world, while beautiful races who were running for centuries silently die. And for those people who are only interested in the winner and not in all the different tales, tactics, dramas and heroics that play out in the peloton over 3 weeks – I am sorry, that you can’t see more, because there is so much more to cycling than “only” winning.

  25. I have to admit that the thing which I dislike the most about this discussion (and the article) is that it deals with a “proposal” of Oleg Tinkov. Whoever wants me to explain my attitude towards this guy in more detail has not yet understood what this man’s actions are all about. And probably never will since Tinkov has been involved in cycling long enough giving us more than enough of his quotes and actions. It should be obvious that this guy is not interested in the health of this sport that we love.

    The second point is: Nearly every one (on this forum) and in the cycling world sees no problem to discuss the matter of aiming for the win in three GTs in one season without the slightest first hand experience of what that really means. It doesn’t take much more than Robert Millar’s article to understand how unrealistic that aim has become.

    There were times in professional cycling when the “clean” level of performance was much lower, even at the very top of the sport. Nowadays the top GC-contenders and their helpers go into a three week GT with way less than 6% body fat. And then at the end of the race they have lost 2 to 3 kilos despite eating as much as physically possible to compensate for their energy consumption. They come out of those events with less than 3% body fat and very tired mentally as physically. Their engines work highly efficient at that moment with regards to aerobic power production and they are typically able to compete well in one day races soon after the TdF, but aside from that they are in a critical health state and their bodies are in desperate need for recovery.

    Right from the beginning of professional cycling it was always meant to be like that. Riders and especially those who won a GT should reach and go beyond the limits of human performance. It was never meant to be a healthy dose of sport but a means of self-destruction for the sake of personal glory and the thrill and entertainment of the public. But even those guys who conceived that new kind of super-human sporting challenge some 100 years ago did not think that it should be possible for one rider to win one of those (then not) three week long suffer fests and go for it again some weeks later. The current race calendar with three GTs each three weeks long was not “created” because the UCI (or someone else) considered it necessary to set up the ultimate challenge. It simply developed into this direction because some folks in Italy and Spain decided at one point that they wanted to follow the successful example of the Tour de France and created their own three week long national tour.

    While I have considered it absolutely possible (even before Adam Hansen’s proof) to ride all three GTs in one season I think it is nowadays impossible to win them all in one season unless all of the serious contenders compete in all three races. And that means all competitors. Would Nibali had won this years TdF if he had ridden the Giro to win it? Most probably not if Péraud and Pinot would have been as fresh as they were. If Nibali, Quintana, Contador, and Froome compete in the 2015 Giro and all four really go for the GC, then one of them will most probably win the Giro. But none of them will win the TdF but someone else like Uran, Pinot. Simply because the recovery necessary to be competitive with fresh competitors in a three week race AFTER you have really gone for it in another three week race some weeks before does not work so fast. I consider that proven. If it was not we would see more riders go for it. For example, Nibali had some great shape when he won the Giro in 2013 and it seemed he did not have to dig too deep during the Giro. So what kept him from trying to go for the TdF in the same season after he had proven to be in exceptional shape?

    We (nearly) all want professional cycling to be as clean as possible. And becoming believably cleaner is the number one requirement for a better economic future of professional cycling. The call for the greatest GT riders to fight for the win in all GTs in one season certainly increases the potential incentive to use prohibited drugs and methods in order to speed up recovery (IV replenishment of fuels for example) and increase resistance against illness and overuse injuries. And it will certainly damage the public image and credibility of cycling for the (sceptical) general public.

    I don’t know why Contador seems to be inspired by this idea while his peers seem to be reluctant. Maybe he simply does not want to oppose the guy who’s paying him such a good salary. If the decision was up to Contador alone I think he would opt for a competition with all the best GT contenders in France in order to show the world who the really best GT rider of the current generation is after they took the 2010 tour away from him and he lost the 2011 and 2013 editions to Evans and Froome. If this assumption is correct it’s only Tinkov’s idea and there is no GT contender who likes this proposal. Which IMHO is a damn good sign of … humanity and rationality.

    • I agree more or less with everything you said. But I just wouldn’t be so radical, nor so sure about what Contador really thinks.

      The Giro-Tour double is possible. Very hard, but possible. The three GTs are more or less a dream, but it’s significant that Contador was toying with the idea of the triple GT crown long before Tinkov hired him. There was a moment, during his career, when he was superior enough to his rivals to consider the option of beating them without being 100% while they were at the top (besides, he loves the Giro: he actually likes it more than the Tour, even if he would obviously prefer to win the latter).
      Nobody thinks he can be 100% in the three GTs, but maybe what Contador is thinking is that he doesn’t need to be 100% to win, even if his rivals are.
      I suspect that his last successes in the Vuelta inspired him: in 2012 he wasn’t the strongest rider, in 2014 he maybe was, still he was far from having a good form; nevertheless, on both occasions he won. As a consequence, he’s slightly underrating his present rivals, and/or has had a boost of confidence: be he right or not, maybe that’s how he sees things.
      If he can win the Giro by a lesser margin than in 2011 – he could, without being 100% – he could then go on building form and try to snatch the Tour by containing the damage, staying in the top five, and suddendly finding some kind of Fuente Dé. That’s what he tried in 2011, more or less. And note that in 2011 he couldn’t organize all his training to get there prepared.
      Another element: if only he could lure Nibali in, we would have two riders with a similar physical/tactical situation entering the Tour; what if they decided to work together to create some mess? It’s a new situation, and new patterns can emerge.
      Nobody said it’s going to be easy, but it may be worth trying.

      Perhaps it’s just about time to discover that there are other ways to win different from lowering to the extreme your fat % and make the race a 15′ contest on the last kms of the last uphill finish. This looks like to be the “effective way” in the context of modern cycling, but it’s not the only one…
      A change in perspectives would be the better unintended consequence of Contador’s /locura/.
      And what about doping? Well, the most renowned dopers distinguished themselves for winning a single race every year, or winning big for a single year. I wouldn’t dare to say why and how, but sheer experience appears to suggest that trying to stretch your calendar doesn’t go well with doping, strange it may sound to those who consider doping some kind of magical videogame power-up.

      I suspect that the whole Contador-Tinkov proposal has more to do with mind games than with real intentions.
      Weren’t it so, even if I share nearly all the worries that STS expressed pretty well, I couldn’t avoid seeing some positive effects of the plan (especially when limited to two GTs): basically, a necessary change in the usual approach STS described.
      The positive consequences on the health of riders and on the interest of the public which would be provided by a more or less subtle shift of paradigm concerning some assumptions of “modern cycling” would compensate the doping-related ones.

      • Don’t want to focus on the doping too much, but query whether doping didn’t “go well” with an extended race calendar, because more races = more opportunities to be tested = fewer opportunities to “prepare”.

        Having said that, of the people who’ve won the Road World Cup or World Tour rankings (a quick and easy proxy for season-long participation), there are a lot of pretty well-renowned dopers among them.

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