Double Trouble

Can Alberto Contador do the Giro d’Italia – Tour de France double? It’s the big question right now. With the Giro in our minds and in his legs, much of the talk is of managing the fatigue and peaking again in July. Surely Contador’s biggest problem isn’t the success he’s just enjoyed nor the tapering and training, it’s the challenge of trying to beat Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and others in July. Talk of “the double” implies a parity between the Giro and Tour that doesn’t exist.

Precedent: The double as a concept has been done before but the last successful combo was Marco Pantani 1998 doppietta, itself an unusual result given the Tour peloton was pruned by the police. Miguel Indurain did it in 1992, Laurent Fignon was eight seconds away from it in 1989. Others have done it too, notably Bernard Hinault twice and Eddy Merckx thrice.

It’s been a matter of fashion, in one season riding the Giro is ruinous, in others it is en vogue. See when Bradley Wiggins was using the Giro as part of his pre-Tour prep this decade. Contador himself took the 2011 Giro and then finished fifth in the Tour de France behind Cadel Evans; Contador was subsequently stripped of the Giro by the Court of Arbitration for Sport but we can still make the physiological comparison. That year Contador’s Tour didn’t work out but he crashed early in the race and soldiered on and was still a contender until the final days until he cracked on the Galibier. Was it the injury or the Giro that did this? More recently Rafał Majka was sixth in the 2014 Giro and then had an excellent Tour de France with two stage wins and the polka dot jersey too and all after a last minute call-up; not the same as trying to win both but instructive none the less.

Majka Tour de France

y > x: conceptually the double might mean “two” but it’s only 1+1 in the most elementary of arithmetic. In reality the Tour de France is harder thanks to a deeper field and more prestigious. Ascribe a value to x+y=2 where x is the Giro and y is the Tour and most would place a premium on winning the latter.

In physiological terms the values could be inverse. In caricature the Giro’s climbs are steep and twisty, the kind of efforts where you need that zip and zing in the legs. By contrast the French climbs are longer, ski-station steady climbs where you grind out results: a stale rider can still ride hard. If a fresher rival wants to launch yo-yo attacks in July the ex-Giro rider doesn’t have to respond but can instead ride tempo on the even gradients and use the force they gained from the Giro to patiently pull back their rivals or at least contain them. Again, that’s a caricature of each race but enough to use as a base for tactics on some stages.This year’s combo is a hard one. The Giro has been very tiring although for all the complaints in the peloton during May, Contador was rarely on the receiving end. The 2015 Tour is awkward with an opening week that will test riders before several summit finishes of varying types and no steady-state time trialling at all.

Training: yesterday L’Equipe asked Ag2r’s coach Jean-Baptiste Quiclet about the training plans. Quiclet suggests Contador needs to keep up the workload. You might think Contador needs rest after the Giro but for a racing cyclist this means active recovery. No oxymoron it means alternating solid training rides with recovery. Having celebrated the Giro in Madrid Contador will return to his home in Switzerland and then head for an altitude training camp in St Moritz. The idea is to train hard but within limits so that the body recovers.

Freshness: doing the double isn’t an isolated feat, it has to be seen within the context of the rest of the season. Contador has been counting his race days this year and will start the Tour with only 44 number of race days if he rides the Route du Sud later this month. It’s more than Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali but not much and Nairo Quintana could have more depending on his programme this month as he’s already on 32 days this year. Of course the timing of all these days matters, Quintana’s count is boosted by January’s Tour de San Luis. But if he rides the Route du Sud Contador will have only four days of racing in June given he’ll skip the Spanish national championships once again.

Rivals > Fatigue: One thing Alberto Contador will find a lot harder in July isn’t the lethargy in his legs, it’s his rivals for the yellow jersey. It’s one thing beat Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa but another to take on Astana’s boss-level leader Vincenzo Nibali and put time into Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and others too, the field will be that much deeper. Had Contador built 2015 on just winning the Tour, avoiding the Giro, a win in July would not be certain. Contador was solid in the Giro but the competition wasn’t as high and he still cracked on the Finestre. Now 32 years old and having announced a retirement date he’s not got that searing acceleration where he’d take 30 seconds on a climb in no time and preserve this to the end. It’s the prospect of competition that makes the Tour exciting already.

Mental gain: we’ll see who wins the Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse. These are great races but combined they don’t amount to the Giro. Contador starts the Tour with an enormous advantage of having nothing to lose. Froome, Quintana and Nibali have built their entire season around Le Tour and you can imagine the stress this brings if things start to crumble. Sure Contador has said he wants le doublé but when he looks at his rivals he can relax because he’s already won big and they haven’t. In technical terms he’s got “flow”, the state of mind where he’s immersed in a task and it’s all going to plan.

Contador’s biggest problem isn’t the Giro, it’s the opposition waiting for him in July. Winning the Giro is enormous and something to be celebrated, good on him for going where others spent May in Tenerife. But talk of a double implies parity between the Giro and the Tour and that’s not the case. Contador was ahead of two Astana riders and he’s now got to take on their leader. Beating Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana plus all the others is a huge challenge for Contador, even with fresh legs. The Giro makes it just that bit harder but it also provides a mental booster, Contador can race this July knowing that whatever happens he’s got his name on a trophy. Can Contador win the double? Yes but the uncertainty makes the challenge and the next two months all the more exciting.

132 thoughts on “Double Trouble”

  1. Neither is Contador going to be too distracted having won the Giro when riders of less palmares might be. But the pressure from Oleg is a bit of an unknown?

    • Hansen’s record of 11 consecutive Grand Tours (and counting) is mightily impressive. But the article is about *winning* the Giro and the Tour back to back, which is an exponentially harder feat than “merely” taking part.

  2. Great piece. I sincerely agree that it’s his rivals and not his legs that will make le tour hard to win.
    . Typo-“won bug” not quite as good as Aru toads but amusing nevertheless

  3. Won’t the larger number of contenders be a blessing in disguise for Contador? Means more teams willing to chase, attack and control, allowing him to sit back and pick his moments a bit more than he could in the Giro.

    • Much depends on how strong the Tinkoff Saxo team is at the Tour. Contador’s Giro win was all the more impressive given how the team seemed to melt away towards the end of stages, leaving him isolated in a sea of Astana blue. If he is left similarly isolated in the face of controlling performances from Movistar and Sky as well as Astana it will be even more difficult for him.

  4. As Inner Ring rightly points out it’s the higher level of competition at the Tour that will hopefully make the real difference and provide a much stiffer challenge. Both Landa and Aru are still youngsters (in Grand Tour terms) and lack necessary experience, as well as perhaps having their challenge somewhat blunted by team orders.

    With Uran and Porte’s lacklustre showing , Contador must have known the ITT would give him a significant buffer over his remaining rivals. He’ll need a completely different approach to win the Tour.

  5. One factor will be the strength of his squad at the Tour.On many stages in the Giro he isolated himself,and the chaseback before the Mortirolo was the only panic I saw.
    As to cracking on the Finistere,my reading was he backed off and with good reason.H,e`s a clever rider,taking the odd second here and there.
    Froome et al will find him a real challenge.

    • I believe he was sandbagging as well. Everyone made a big deal about winning the (a) stage, but it’s what will be remembered that matters; the double is the real prize. Especially in this era.

      It seems as if Contador is at least twice as clever as his rival’s DSs.

      • +1 I’m sure Contador took his foot off the pedal the last two days, with the buffer he had, there really was no need to drive himself into the ground. It might have been lonely out there with no team and mentally challenging knowing your rivals are OTF winning the stage but his long game was played very wisely.

        • I think you might be right: he didn’t actually look like he was struggling on Finestre, even with Aru up the road. His usual climbing style seemed intact.

          But I think the gravel road might have given him problems as well: I find to climb well on gravel you really need to sit back, so your back wheel bites well. This is of course the opposite to Contador’s ‘dancing on the pedals’ style.

  6. On the precedent part, we could also mention riders doing well both in Tour and in Vuelta, for instance Valverde last year. On a physiological point of view, I guess this is similar to double giro and tour.

    I agree on the fact that the main problem for Kontador in July will be the rivals. By the way, time differences in GC may be very small, and I won’t be surprised if the decisive stage results to be the cobbled one.

  7. “the last successful combo was Marco Pantani 1998 doppietta”

    Funny how “doppieta” looks more like ‘doped’ than ‘double’…

  8. He may do it, as has been pointed out he is a savvy and very strong rider. However he is an unrepentant doper, which takes a lot of fun out of watching him race.

    It was a pretty rude gesture to hold up three fingers and then claim to gathered press that he is a three time Giro champion despite his disqualification in 2011.

    Contador not agreeing with a judgement is one thing but lying to himself and the public just makes him an ass.

    • + 1 – Bad Form indeed, I would enjoy watching him a lot more had he not had a doping conviction, what amazes me is the fact that all the inuendo (deserved or not) was with Astana wheras we have a convicted doper running away with the Giro and I did not see much mention of it… the eurosport commentators reducing the convictions of dopers in the peleton to “misdameanours”, “Setbacks” and “incidents”.

      • I’m not sure it would be very helpful for the commentators to exclaim “And convicted doper Contador takes the win” as he crosses the line. That said, the Clenbuterol case was referred to several times, as was Ilnar Zakharin’s previous ban, so I think you do the Eurosport commentators a disservice.

        • IN respect to what you heard I did not hear a dicky bird about Contador, however I was not glued to the whole commentary so its possible, however I did here them refer to riders past convictions as i stated which is IMHO (and i am entitled to it) reprehensible.

          If they are going to reduce them to that status best not to mention it at all.

          I did hear the comments about Zakarins past (sad) but then again he was not romping away with the Giro.

          My point being if you are gonna hate spread it evenly not just target Astana or dont mention it all

          • I was watching the Eurosport International coverage and they definitely mentioned Contador’s doping past, and specifically that he had been stripped of a Giro before and therefore hadn’t won 3 like he claimed.

      • You can always go watch another professional sport where they’re all doped to the gills and no one is talking about it…

        • UK anti-doping website – current sanctions on uk athletes….
          Rugby Union/League 27, Boxing 4, Athletics 3, ice hockey/wrestling/cycling/weightlifting/other 2 each, bobsleigh 1
          tell them to put that in their pipe and smoke it…

    • Well, failing to see that the clenbuterol case was a giant mess isn’t that far from lying. He was responsible for that, too, but not the only one. And the sentence wasn’t based on the facts they acknowledged but on a political equilibrium.
      Like, it was a lesser punishment to take the Giro away from him (a Giro where, as long as we know, he was “clean”), than imposing on him a longer time away from races; still, they couldn’t acquit him or leave him go with a shorter sanction because of the UCI pressure.
      It was a complete chaos from start to finish, and even the CIRC report makes reference to that, underlining that there were not-so-opportune attitudes both favouring and damaging Contador on the institutions’ part.
      If you say he’s a doper because of the TAS sentence, you should also be ready to recognise that the same sentence branded the transfusion hypothesis as just equally credible as the steak theory (that’s not a compliment), and they even went as far as formulating their own “most probable” interpretation of facts: contaminated food supplement (which isn’t doping). Though, since Contador didn’t choose that one as his defense, he was sanctioned.
      But if your source to call him a doper is that TAS sentence, well, maybe that’s not the best substantive.
      Whereas if you’re not speaking of facts but of your personal opinions and sensations, well, I could even agree, but I’d fail to see the difference with most riders.
      Note that, as long as I know, Contador didn’t lay the same claims on the 2010 Tour as on the 2011 Giro. That is, I suspect that his problem isn’t with the positive test but with the absurd sanction (which, anyway, was a big advantage for him, as I said before).
      Maybe he will show 9 if he does the double? 😛

      • The usual prolix speciousness from the resident Italian barrack-room lawyer.

        You say you really hate doping, gabriele; really, really hate it; yet you manage to excuse it, dilute it and wash it away every single time it’s found, exposed and sanctioned.

        Golf clap.

        • Man, go and complain with the TAS. I didn’t wrote that sentence.
          Nor the CIRC report.

          If I was sure that what you call “finding, exposing and sanctioning doping” was part of a serious doping fight, I would indeed support it. But I just don’t think so, and I suspect the reality of the last 20 years of cycling are on my side.
          Building controversial and barely credible cases doesn’t help, either.
          That said, it’s not like I’ve lost every hope to see a change.

        • Plus, I guess there’s my Papist heritage. I hate doping, not dopers.
          Whereas I’ve sort of a feeling that a good bunch of people around cycling hate doping only because it allows them to convey their nature of haters.

          • gabriele- just to be clear, when you say you have not “lost every hope to see a change.” Have you not seen any change at all in the last several years? Not that there is any great degree of confidence, but some of us think we are likely seeing clean riders winning Grand Tours these days. If you believe (and I could agree) that even Contador’s 2011 Giro was likely to have been “clean,” then surely this indicates a different state of affairs than was the case 7-10 years ago? The Biological Passport may be too cumbersome (scientifically and legally) to hold the line for the long term, but it has been useful in getting the sport to the point where even a lot of the cynics have to admit that sustainable gains (largely “cultural” in nature) are definitely in view, and possibly within reach.

          • @Foley
            I’m sure that the BP is a great step forward, if managed properly, and – as Ferrari says – the whereabouts system, too (that’s also quite cumbersome, but…).
            I’m not sure about how they’re being managed.
            This isn’t to say that I’m sure we’re going on as in the old times, not at all, but I’m definitely not able to produce a *conclusive statement* on the subject, nor I feel the urgent need to. You’re left to wonder, even today, about a huge heap of little questions.
            Well, the existing possibility to harbour some sort of optimistic doubts means, indeed, that some change happened, at least on a cultural if not practical level.
            Be it or not the Astana thing a “theatre” as some Anon stated (another subject on which I fail to produce a conclusive judgement), it would be significant that such theatre, if that’s really what it is, was mounted. A tribute that vice pays to virtue? Well, even in that case, virtue is receiving a tribute, which is good news compared to the past.

            I must admit that I’m not that confident we’re seeing clean riders etc., but maybe a matter of degree is also relevant. Very relevant, in terms of athletes’ health, and that’s interesting.
            Let’s put it like this: thanks to some Schrödinger many many years ago we are able to think about a cat that’s both living and dead (without recurring to Romero or Stephen King). Now the cat is a little bit alive, ten years ago it was 100% stone dead. Even before you opened the box. Which doesn’t mean that if we opened the box right now, we would find him alive and kicking. If we opened the box, maybe (probably) it would be just as dead. But, while the box is closed, he’s some % alive – and that’s a change.

        • My more serious response is below, but what is a ‘golf clap’?
          Also, I disagree with your accusations of ‘prolix specoiusness’: I find posts that are actually about cycling infinitely more interesting – no matter how vehement or how much I disagree with them – than anonymous posts making meaningless, personal criticisms.

          • The Urban Dictionary is the advanced English learner’s best friend:

            1. An exaggeratedly quiet clapping intended as a show of sarcastic support or disdain.

            c.f. the quiet clapping sound heard on televised golf tournament coverage. Due to the distance between the microphone and the crowd, the golf clap sounds like a nearby crowd of people clapping at minimal volume.

            BTW this is probably the only cycling blog/forum where tsuch things as the finer nuances between award-winning films at various festivals or matters of religious history are assumed to be familiar to readers.

        • Glad to see im not the only one confused by Gabriele’s really drawn out paragraphs which end without a conclusive statements. Gabriele you try to talk of facts but in the end you just have opinions like the rest of us.

          • More often than you’d think, the difference lies not between facts and opinions, but between informed opinion and wild guess. I like wild guesses, too (you know, when I write: “I guess”, “I feel”, “I suspect” and the likes), but there are people who tend to consider their own as “conclusive statements” and verbally vest them as such. Hence, I can’t but appreciate you observing a certain lack of conclusive statements in my posts 😉

        • I don’t always agree with gabriele; frankly, rarely do I finish reading his posts. But we do know what he thinks, and he stands by it. You, Anonymous, we don’t know. Get and keep a name or shoosh.

      • I think cheating is not acceptable, but there are rules about that. For this reason, I don’t like to debate over doping suspicious or ex-convicted, or even sentences. I don’t see what it brings to the way I am enjoying this sport.
        However, in that case, I would just like to say that I agree with almost everything you wrote. This was a judicial mess.

        • I’m not supporting Contador nor excusing his actions – the chances of him being not guilty are very small (I base my beliefs on what the scientific experts have said, but they are still just ‘beliefs’) – but the most ludicrous part of that whole farce was the contaminated food supplement suggestion (as Cancellara said at the time, what rider doesn’t test those?). What kind of court suggests its own defence?
          I think Gabriele’s ‘Papist heritage’ theory goes a long way: Italians, Spaniards, Latin Americans all seem a lot more forgiving (I’m not saying that’s a good or a bad thing) than Anglo types. Personally, I think he deserved his sentence and should accept it – even though he was one of many. All in all, he got away pretty lightly: he still keeps his previous victories.
          Doesn’t mean he isn’t a great rider – and the most entertaining to watch.

          • The whole thing is very controversial, but I think Cancellara was just defending his teammate’s Tour.
            Not every lab would have been able to detect that quantity of clenbuterol contamination in the supplement, more or less as it happened with the blood test (even imagining that there was *more* in the supplement).
            Besides, you’d had to test every single package you’re consuming, and for a lot of substances you may not even be able to imagine. UCI and WADA are not regularly testing samples for *everything*, imagine checking every bar or protein supplement.
            I’m sure you have a general test for some products when you start using them, if Cancellara says so, but it’s nonsense to think this counters the supplement hypothesis.
            I don’t discard completely the transfusion theory, either, but it’s far from clear and Ashenden’s assertions above have their fairly weak points.
            And, anyway, that’s theory, the difference between Contador and the theories we could build about others is just that TAS sentence – which says what it says. Period.
            As I said before, I don’t think that the sentence was *unfair* or that Contador was hit too hard, on the contrary. It was a sort of compromise. Totally understandable.
            What is sure is that it doesn’t grant safer ground to say something about Contador’s doping, it doesn’t provide safe ground for anything at all, I’d say.
            The team he was in? The people he worked with? Some specific performances? I could fill pages with that (guess you know…), Contador doesn’t even look *clean*, especially if his whole career is taken into account.
            But that is all what we have – as in many others’ case -, thus he doesn’t deserve to be looked down differently *because of the TAS sentence*, because it really means nothing.

          • The whole thing is very shaky – and you have to look at who benefitted from his ban and took ‘his’ two wins: Scarponi and Schleck. Then, you have to ask yourself, do you really think they were clean? Scarponi has plenty of history and Schleck is far from being beyond suspicion (a rider who was so much better at 25 than he was at 29, amongst other things).

          • The court didn’t suggest a defence. They identified the most likely explanation (which was neither Contador’s nor the UCI’s proposal), and then upheld the sentence anyway because the most likely explanation wasn’t enough for a defence.

    • We all know the skinny. If he wasn’t winning then who was? Scarponi? I think we can agree that we all wanted to see Lance brought down, but we know who won those tours. Just like we know who won the 2011 Giro. We can’t parse it now. We have been proven right over and over about two things 1) the peleton repentantly dopes 2) those that enforce rules and regulations do it selectively or very ineffectively either by circumstance or on purpose. He won 3 Giros. It would be naive to pretend somebody else did. Who then? The rider in 157th place?

      • Belgian press made a simulation on Tour 1999. If we removed all the convinced cheaters guess who would have won!? Kurt van de Wouwer!!! (who finished at an anonymous 11th place).

        Funny, isnt’ it?

        • Yeah, Nardello too would have won some according to Italian press.
          And, since he was in that top ten, I wonder what did the Belgian press find about Nardello… I’ve reasons not to appreciate him too much, still there’s nothing about him. To present date, at least.

          However, without implying anything about these specific riders (Nardello was tested & retested), I wonder, when we’re speaking of old Tours, about some sort of bias we’ve got there. Some info we got is about retested samples – well, obviously enough most of samples you’ve got are those from the ones winning stages and/or high-placed in GC. There are random samples, obviously, but the probability to be caught this way is lower if we’re not on top of classification.

          • In fact, I just put this example a bit as a kind of “reductio ab absurdum”… You know, we can try to reshape classifications and rewrite the story based on posterior test and/or banishments but it does not change the perception I had of the race at that time, the way I enjoyed it or not. The impact of KvdW on this race was almost nihil at that time and I am sure most people have forgotten him (except some deep cycling fan apparently).
            This is one of the reason why I don’t like very much debating over doping cases. When somebody is caught, he is banned. End of the story.
            To be clear, this does not mean that I defend doping or even that I innocently enjoyed seeing riders cycling through France like unfailable robots.

    • Well, he was never found guilty of using anything during that giro. And I think it is safe to say the effects of the clenbuterol had worked off by then. This means he blew all his competitors off the road riding as clean as they were. Not that we know how much that means but without proof we have to rate them all as clean, or at least equally doped. So I can understand why he feels he won that race.
      Don’t get me wrong, I think it is right that he was scrapped from the results, as it was determined later by the highest authority he was not allowed to start the race in the first place.

  9. On mental gain: I agree with you Mr Ring, it’s the legs that do the work but the mind that makes a winner. See how Contador kept his calm when things started to go south on Cestriere, many others would crack under such pressure but not the Pistolero.

    P.S. On a side note the same toughness was displayed by Aru in Morirolo, he lost time but he gave it his all, IMHO there is a bright future for the Sardinian.

  10. Great article thanks Inring

    Alberto (and his rivals) have to get over 13KM of Pav’e first which they have ably demonstrated in the past that they cannot do.

    The first week of the Tour has a classics feel about it which will be challenging, along with the TTT being very late in the Tour at Stage 9 it throws a lot of interesting variables in the mix.

    I for one will be hoping for filthy weather in the first week in the hope that it brings the “proper” bike riders to the fore as of last year.

    Last years cobbled stage was IMHO the best viewing in the Tour of recent years.

      • Lost over a minute to A Schleck – albeit he got stuck behind the crashing F Schleck whilst AS was towed along by Cancellara.

      • He got over it in 2014… just and lost time, he was not the worst but he didnt have broken hands.

        I am not a total Contador Basher I think he is a fine rider I am just stating that IMHO these stages will make a difference and be hugely entertaining

    • Nibali, being one of Contador’s rivals, rode like a boss and came in third in last years pave stage if memory serves, seems he’s more than simply able. Contador remained upright though he did lose well over 2 minutes. Hopefully Sky’s choice of tire this year is up to the challenge of what is most likely going to be another wet stage in northern France, July being their wet season and all.

      • Putting whatever questions over their “preparations”/teams aside, Contador & Nibali are great bike racers who make the most of what unfolds on the day. I would back them on any surface frankly.

  11. The presence of Bertie’s rivals bringing strong teams could actually help him if they elect to ride like Astana did here and Movistar in that second TDF mountain stage in 2013 when Froome was isolated. Sky have a track record of meaningless pace setting so some canny riding and mind games could give Contador a shot.

  12. I think Contadors biggest rival is Giuseppe Martinelli. He’s a wiley old dog who’s seen just about everything, including DSing Pantani to the last succuessful double. Over the last year Astana have shown by far the most tactical flair of all of the teams, and appear to like to try and ambush Grand Tour stages that in theory should not be big GC days i.e. Sheffield and the cobbled stages last year, and the middle mountain stages of this years Giro. They threw the kitchen sink at Contador in the Giro, they just couldn’t finish it off apart from on the Finestre stage. In France they’ll have Nibali to finish the job more effectively than Aru could and Quintana & Froome waiting to snap up anything he can’t deal with. I think they’ll be looking at the two ‘Mur’ finishes with interest. Also you have to take into account the higher pace of the Tour, everybody always remarks that it is quicker than any other race. Plus this year you’ll have Quick-Step, Giant-Alpecin, Lotto and Cofidis who have all based their entire seasons just about (maybe not Lotto) on the sprints at the Tour, so the pace even on the flat ‘easy’ days will be murderously high you’d suspect. He might be worn out by the time the last week comes round.

    • I agree with you on Martinelli and Nibali, but Nibali is a lesser rider and Contador is as clever (maybe more..) as Martinelli. Quintana and Froome, on the other hand, have lost a few teeth.

      I think.

      And, the sprint stages are a rest day for the GC contenders.

    • I have no way of telling, but given comments from riders like Mick Rogers, it sounds like the pace of this Giro rivaled a typical TdF.

    • That’s something which was *hugely* true not only between 2000 and 2006, when the Giro was quite inferior from a technical (an pharmaceutical) POV, but also during previous years, when a different “style of racing” was imposed in the Corsa Rosa by big names looking forward an easier sprint or even GT contenders intending to manage a more controlled race.

      Yet, we must take care it doesn’t become some commonplace assumption without reference to present reality. This Giro, as many recent editions, has been raced on a very fast pace also when TV images weren’t there. A lot of first hours averaging 50km/h or the such.

      The Giro course obviously hinders the general average speed when compared to the Tour (twistier and narrower roads, more up-and-downs even in easy stages, steeper mountains).

      All the same, we’ve had some recent editions in which the final average speed was higher than the Tour’s. I’m going on memory, hence I could be wrong, but I think that was the case in 2009-2010-2011.
      The 2012 Tour had a Giro-like avg. speed under 40km/h, I think (despite of an incredibly easy course), but that year the avg. speed sank in the Giro, too, nearly 2km/h lower than usual. It was probably the less competitive Giro in recent years.
      Then, the Tour speeds went on the rise again with Froome and Nibali while at the Giro they remained quite steady. The Giro is averaging about 39,6 km/h from 2009 on (39,8 if you take the odd 2012 away), while the Tour is about 40 km/h (40,1 I think): if you take into account the very different terrain of the two races, I think we could say that they racing just as fast, in the Giro.

      Worth mentioning, anyway, that this is a short-range relatively new phenomenon, the Giro/Tour difference has long before been more or less as we all imagine.

      • Does the lack of an Italian “boss” in the peloton these days contribute to this? Back in the Giros of the early 2000s, if Cipo said it was an easy day, it was an easy day. If Casagrande, Simoni et al agreed the fight would be on the last climb, it would be on the last climb. In those days, the contenders were all either Italian, or former Soviet riders who were naturalised Italian.

        • Yes, it was exactly what I was referring to speaking of a “style of racing” imposed “by big names”. But it goes way back, also to Moser etc.
          Note that it’s something that, in slightly different forms, used to happen a lot (for example) in Armstrong’s Tour, too, but it didn’t hinder very much the average speed because of other reasons.
          However, it was very typical in the Giro and had become a sort of trademark: many people thought that “TV” (i. e. traguardo volante, “intermediate sprint”) meant “television” because you started to see some movement in the race when the intermediate sprint was approaching, and that was also, when the television started to broadcast. When there weren’t images, they didn’t care to race hard!
          That helped in making it a climbers’ race – whereas, on the contrary, the Tour had always been quite hard for pure climbers and/or light riders. When you get to the climb a bit worn out by high rhythm, it’s harder to make a difference: on top of that, light riders suffer way much from an high rhythm on flat or rolling terrain, hence they often arrived to the climbs so worn out that heavier riders, entering the climb in better conditions, could even beat them.

  13. I really think Froome and Quintana are both good challengers to the double, but the biggest threat in terms of experience is Vicenzo Nibali, he’s the one with Carrer Grand Tour, he won in different conditions with different depth of fields. So he can really shake Contador during his dreams. The other 2 won each other one grand tour each a lot to prove yet.

    Froome seens to me the most fragile one compared to the other 2, too skinny and this madness to be only skin and bones makes him less resistant to the weather, as seen last year.

    Nairo is quite complete but still has something to prove, as a South American I would love to see him win but I don’t think he will be cool enough as he should to defeat Contador with a Giro in the pocket and aiming to the double.

    Who knows what kind of weather we are going to have on July. This May was very wet and cold here in the north of the Northern Europe, even more compared to last year.

    It will be definitely one exciting race, I’m expecting the same kind of nervous field in the first stages as last year, so be corrected positioned in these first stages will be even more essential than before. Let’s see who’s learned the lesson from last year! Sky doesn’t seen to quite get it, from their poor positioning in the Giro though.

    Can’t wait until July.

  14. A quick note / correction in the list of those who have done the double, Miguel Indurain did the “double double”, in 1992 and following up in 1993. I suspect the mental strain must have been considerable, though, since as I recall he switched to the Dauphine Libere for preparation in 1994.


  15. Spot on article, I would take NOTHING away fromAC winning the Giro, its a physically demanding beast of a race, and credit to him winning it.However the proof will come when the main teams line up the “big guns” in July, its not that AC can’t ride and be up there…its just that all the others can do it just as well on their day…and unlike the giro, he only really had 2 or 3 challengers, there will be at least 7 or 8 main riders who on any given day can take it up a level, and shaking them off day after day will be hard, nigh on impossible.His team were also somewhat lacking in support on several occasions, and in July that will cost him far more than it did in Italy.I personally have no favourites to win, if there was a “real” Englishman in a GC position then clearly he would get my utmost support. It is shaping up for an interesting race, hope its more exciting than last years “procession”! Astana were under suspicion then, and they still are, the UCI seem paralysed into inaction, and as such they will continue to dominate, Team Sky in my opinion are a fading force but it would be typical of them to prove me wrong and win in July!

    • “the UCI seem paralysed into inaction”

      Technical point, but as far as I understood it, the UCI requested the revocation of Astana’s World Tour licence, but the licencing commission elected not to revoke it and the UCI accepted that decision. This might be an over-simplification but it isn’t quite the same as the UCI displaying “inaction”.

    • Never seen more of a procession in decades of watching than the ‘real’ Englishman’s TDF win.
      Not his fault: he rode to his strengths – and had his team stopping the ‘unreal’ Englishman from challenging him. But all the same, if one removes one’s nationalistic blinkers it was the most fantastically tedious Tour.

      • All this Wiggins/Froome BS is tiring. Froome was hired for one job and one job only: support Wiggins. Whether or not he could have won is immaterial. The fact that he couldn’t do his job properly was just a sign of things to come. He’s an amateur, doped or clean.

        • +1 people very easily seem to forget that Froome was there to do a “job” not to decide that glory was to be his. gets boring as you say.

          • I suppose one could also argue that Froome did a pretty good job Shepherding Wiggo in 2012.

            He made sure that his captain is in no danger and only then try to go for stage wins. It is quite in cycling tradition for a classy team leader to encourage such stage win attempts as it boosts team morale and awards the hard working lieutenant. Not letting Froome go showed Wiggo’s mental fragility/insecurity.

        • Doesn’t alter the fact that Wiggins was probably not the best rider of that – or any other – Tour and only won it because the other bloke was there to ‘do a job’ and that job was, specifically, not beating Wiggins. Thus, Wiggins won due to the paucity of opposition.
          Also, many examples of amateurish behaviour from Wiggins through the years: drinking, sulking, not trying at the 2008 Olympics Madison (ask Cavendish).
          He’s had a brilliant career, but you can’t alter the facts.

  16. One ‘advantage’ of a stronger field is that AC will not find himself accidentally in the jersey so early in the Tour. Having to control the Giro for so long really sapped his team.

    I will be interested to see how Nibali & Froome ride this month, as neither impressed earlier in the season. Quintana is perhaps the most dangerous threat as he can be so explosive on the climbs (like Contador of that past) and riding tempo on the steady alpine climbs may not be enough to pull him back. (Though Quintana will have to deal with Valverde vying for leadership of the team.)

    I’m pulling for AC, if only so we can witness a double this generation.

  17. Excellent analysis, as usual. How AC faces a higher level of competition is going to be key. One thing you didn’t analyze was the teams he will be facing. Did Astana burn their matches using Aru and Lamda in the Giro? They would have been great support for Nibili. With Porte questionable, does Sky have enough support for Froome? Movistar seems to have no end of good climbers. Who will we see in the TdF to support Quintana?

    • Team composition – good point.

      Astana still have a fair number of strong riders they didnt field in the Giro, who’ll be able to support Nibali e.g. Fuglsang, Scarponi, Taaramae etc

      Sky will have Poels, Roche, Sergio Henao, Thomas, likely Kennaugh. Porte might be a question mark, as you say

      Movistar – yeah, they’ll field a strong team for Quintana, not least of whom will be Valv…

  18. I wouldn’t blame Inring for removing the comment section as so many other cycling web sites have done. The of topic bickering is embarrassing to read.

    • I certainly hope Mr. Inrng keeps the comments section, but I agree with you about the off topic bickering. I’m beginning to learn whose comments to skip on sight and whose to read with full attention and enjoyment. Oddly enough, the skip-on-sight comments often come from Anonymous. . . .

    • I’ve deleted a few comments here. By all means debate ideas but it’s unpleasant when one reader has a go at another. If it helps, try to imagine you’re in a bar or café with others to discuss the sport rather than sitting in a machine gun nest 😉

      Also if people make aggressive, rude comments then in one click they’re treated as spam. The more spam a user gets, the more their comments will be filtered automatically by the software here before they even go up.

  19. I think of it less as The Double than cycling’s equivalent of a “Tiger Slam”. Completing all of the grand tours, much less holding their titles for any amount of time, is a feat to be celebrated.

  20. One variable not in Inrng’s calculations is luck!

    AC is an accomplished, skilled tactically as well as physically gifted road racer.

    Yet, the more stage racing you do race day after race day the higher the fatigue factor. I believe that should be something that statistically needs to be taken into consideration in the last two weeks of the tour. This combined with a fatigued team up against more antagonist teams with pedigree climbers
    will make for interesting racing.

    I hope that is a fair fight and may the best man win, not the luckiest!

  21. Someone questioned my use of the phrase ” UCI paralysed into inaction” re the Astana affair. I am quite happy to be pulled up, but also take the opportunity to redress…lol!
    UCI as I see it own the right to allow who they like into THEIR world tour series, and I might be totally wrong here, but isn’t the licencse committe simply another part of the UCIs working mechanism, as in, it acts on behalf of the UCI, so if the board still considered Astana a problem , surely they had the ultimate sanction, but instead chose to fall back on ” our hands are tied, the big boys did it, they gave them the license, not us”!!
    I had great hopes when a Yorkshireman took the reins of the UCI, and all in all I still do, but this is one thing that was not dealt with properly. I accept no one wants to see a major team left out, in any sport, but if there is evidence of what appeared to be a determined effort to “enhance” their performances surely for the good of the sport then they should have been suspended whilst ALL the facts were known, or if all the facts were known, then a clear precise statement outlining the facts would have cleared things up, instead we got a mish mosh of nothing really, other than to say their license was renewed but there will be monitoring of their team, a bit like I remember being on reports at school!!

    • You’re far off on several counts, the UCI licence commission is independent of the UCI, it has to be otherwise senior UCI figures like Brian Cookson (his son works for Sky) or Igor Makarov (he owns Katusha) would be open to taking very partisan decisions. Visit the archives herefrom April for more on the Astana case.

  22. In 2010 Cadel Evans rode a very hard Giro, winning the points jersey and an epic stage, then backed up for the Tour. I believe he was wearing yellow, and riding very strongly, before crashing and breaking his elbow, which put him out of contention. This shows a class rider like Evans, or Contador, can back up for the Tour and, providing their luck holds, can do very well and even win.

    • That was a tough tour for Evans. It was almost with sadness that he took the yellow, knowing his elbow was rooted but not saying anything. Still, I expect it strengthened his resolve to come back in 2011.

  23. Contador’s biggest threat in July? In the team car. Some of the Tinkoff strategy calls in the early part of this Giro had us scratching our heads, writing about burning too many matches etc. Oleg will struggle to get away with that in July.

    • I know what you mean but I somehow get the feeling that Tinkoff is more fixated on Sagan (who’ll also be racing) and Contador is a strong enough character to resist nonsense from the boss. Moreover, he has Rogers to confer with if things get tricky, not to mention Kruizinger & Majka. Tinkoff needs Contador more than Contador needs Tinkoff .

  24. I’m surprised no-one’s mentioned Stephen Roche, or does also winning the World Championship race mean that it’s no longer a ‘double’ year?

    • That’s sometimes called the “triple crown”. It’s the obvious difference between Contador and today’s generation of stage racers, things are more specialised especially with Contador who rarely starts a one day race; riders like Roche would do more one day races. Valverde is one of the exceptions among today’s generation.

  25. I hope he gets the double, not so much because I’m a Contador fan, but I hope it increases the number of big shots that are willing to try it. The only reason the field in the Giro is so much weaker is that everybody is saving up for the Tour. If the double becomes the big aim, the ‘Grand Slam’ of cycling, we would have much more top-level racing every year. The poularity of the Tour is self-sustaining, it attracts the big names because it is the most watched race, and it is the most watched race because the big names are all there. I think any developments that spread some of the Tour popularity to other races are beneficial for the fans as well as the sport as a whole.

    • It’ll certainly the fashion, if others see it being done then they might fancy a go too. RCS does pay hefty appearance fees for some foreign stars but the deciding factor is whether it’ll work with the Tour.

      • Hi INRNG – could you shed any light on appearance fees from race organisers?

        Like, how much are we talking? How does it fit in with the rider’s usual salary? Does it go to the rider or their team?

        We hear about San Luis, for example, paying out to make sure Cavendish, or the world champion, or Quintana etc are all there, but I just wondered about the technicality. It feels a little secretive and unspoken-about.


  26. I think in future I’m not going to read the comments section especially when Le Big Show starts. I find they are dominating the whole site for me and that’s not how I used to enjoy Inrng’s fantastic blog. Sorry guys/gals I know some comments are informative and interesting but the others are just mud slinging and bickering that sadly haunt other forum type sites and it’s not what I care to read. If there was an option button to disable comments I feel i would click it.

    • Yep – inrng him(or her)self, in this blog article:
      “It’s been a matter of fashion, in one season riding the Giro is ruinous, in others it is en vogue. See when Bradley Wiggins was using the Giro as part of his pre-Tour prep this decade. Contador himself took the 2011 Giro and then finished fifth in the Tour de France behind Cadel Evans; Contador was subsequently stripped of the Giro by the Court of Arbitration for Sport but we can still make the physiological comparison. That year Contador’s Tour didn’t work out but he crashed early in the race and soldiered on and was still a contender until the final days until he cracked on the Galibier. Was it the injury or the Giro that did this?”

  27. Thanks, I somehow missed that part. I think Contador was serious about the double that year. Despite the ongoing investigation. In terms of performance this year will be not so different. I dont`t think he will succeed

  28. I’m not sure I agree that the pressure is slightly off Contador because he has won the Giro. As supposedly the greatest stage racer of his generation and possibly in the top3-5 of all time, he hasn’t won the Tour in 7 years and as much as I don’t like it, the Tour is worth much, much more than any of the other GTs. I think if he doesn’t win his season will be seen as a failure and he certainly needs at least 1, if not 2, more Tour wins to put him up there in the discussions for best GT rider of all time.

    It’s similar to what we saw with Cav. After several ridiculously good seasons it no longer matters what else he wins, if he doesn’t get 3+ Tour stages INCLUDING the Champs Elysees, his year is a failure.

  29. Is Sagan doing the tour?

    How are tinkoff going to manage his green jersey aspirations? At the very least hes one less support rider for AC


    Kreuziger exonerated!!

    Poor guy and poor Contador; what a waste of energy. I hope he can get back to where he was this time last year and that he can help AC win it all.

Comments are closed.