The Double In Trouble

Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin both tried the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double. Did it work out for them? Probably but this won’t make the Giro-Tour double any easier, in fact new calendar changes for 2019 and beyond make it even harder and this is potentially a problem for the sport.

The double has long been prohibitive because of the efforts demanded, to do a three week race, pause and then go again a month later leaves little time to rest and rebuild, you’re cooked once from the Giro, twice from the Tour. Every year some riders do it but few contenders for the overall classification think about, winning both is something which hasn’t been done for twenty years and that year owed itself to some particular events too. This year time neither Froome nor Dumoulin won but they came close, it showed they could compete in both races and this might tempt others to try. Winning both is another matter, Dumoulin may wonder what could have been in the Tour had he not done the Giro. It’s like the apocryphal Irish tale where a lost visitor asks for directions to Cork, “well I wouldn’t start from here” says the local. To win the Tour the ideal route is probably not to start with the Giro.

One difference this year was the extra week between the two races thanks to the FIFA World Cup which saw the Tour moved back a week to reduce the calendar clash, a precious extra week to rest, train and refocus. Only the Tour-Vuelta combo doesn’t deter many despite just four weeks weeks between them and many go for this. The difference here is one of context and status, of the Tour as the pinnacle of the sport where the level is the highest, riders aim to peak for July and teams bring the strongest squads they’ve got. By contrast the Vuelta can be an after-thought, a see-what-happens race for those who have done the Tour. If they can win a stage, place on GC then all the better; if not then they bank another grand tour in the legs which does them good for the following year.

All this matters because if riders and teams fixate on just the Tour de France then it impoverishes the rest of the calendar, especially the Giro which is notionally the second biggest event on the calendar. Imagine tennis players skipping Rolland Garros because they want to play at Wimbledon instead? Unthinkable. But in cycling the demands of one grand tour are such that this makes eminent sense. The calendar choices suit the Giro-Vuelta or Tour-Vuelta double and this is a problem because the Tour can drain away the best riders. It doesn’t mean the Giro is a bad race, indeed the more open and unexpected aspect is something to enjoy, but it can lack the stars all the same.

Be careful what you wish for
If the extra week because of the World Cup made a difference this year, it’s not going to happen again. The Giro has been lobbying for a later slot on the calendar to help avoid snowstorms when the race visits the Alps in its final week. Just seven days make a difference, the period coincides with the season when the roads are opened by the authorities but of course Mother Nature does as she pleases, even the Tour de France has seen Alpine blizzards. The Giro’s wish has been granted, in 2019 and beyond the race will start a week later. Yet if there’s less chance of snow, there’s surely going to be even less chance of star riders given the increased proximity to the Tour. Even in a FIFA World Cup year the gap would be week less than it was this year. Now in return the Tour could be pushed back later still into July and August but it’s a business rival of the Giro and has little incentive to help out; similarly if it did move then the Vuelta would want to be moved too and the season would get very long.

Another thing that makes the Giro-Tour possible is appearance fees. As covered in May amid the Froome furore the murky topic of start money appeared. “A start fee for Froome? I flatly deny that” Giro director Mauro Vegni told last year. Fast-foreward Vegni was lamenting that he was kept in the dark over Froome’s salbutamol case… when negotiating an appearance fee. So there is a fee, only technically it is paid to the team rather than the rider. Similarly Vegni also let slip that the Giro pays teams participation fees linked to the riders they bring. All teams collect a payment for starting but Vegni adjusts the fee according to each team’s roster, bring more stars and they’re paid more. Only with the date changes the price to lure a Tour contender has surely only got higher? Still a large sum is a way to counter the calendar differences, to make it so worthwhile targeting the Giro that whatever happens at the Tour is nice but not essential.

The Giro-Tour double tempted some this year, perhaps a fistful of Euros was a hidden incentive but the calendar was a factor with an extra week between the two races. The Tour-Vuelta double doesn’t have such a wide gap but doesn’t seem to pose such a problem, the difference is the Spanish race is less important, teams base a lot of their year’s plans, budget and recruitment on July and then hope for the best in the Vuelta. A wider gap between the Giro and Tour encourages more to try the double, it could be healthy for the sport to have the stars attend both, if not all then at least more. Only the Italian race has asked for a later slot to reduce the risk of snowstorms and this means riders and teams are more likely to be forced to choose between the two, Giro or Tour.

119 thoughts on “The Double In Trouble”

  1. I am not really sure why this objective rates so much attention. Surely Pantani’s (i.e. the last) Giro-Tour double must have a massive asterisk beside it? Many teams have a number of potential GT leaders on their rosters. Surely team harmony could be maximised through each leader targeting a different GT. Something for Movistar and Sky to think about?

    • Yes, well said. It’s Fool’s Gold in my eyes, this phantom ‘achievement’. I know Armstrong is the poster boy for doping within cycling, but even a casual cycling fan like myself knows Pantani is equally infamous, too.

    • Not many teams can afford this though, if Dumoulin goes to the Tour, who rides the Giro?

      As suggested above Pantani’s double does have a big asterisk for various reasons, yes the industrial, institutional doping but also the Festina affair saw many teams quit the Tour and many remaining in the race had dumped their stash of doping products… but some still didn’t so it was odd.

      The point though isn’t so much winning it, it’s whether a rider or team can contemplate doing both.

      • What we’ve seen the Giro do, particularly though, is to adjust its parcours to suit – the most obvious examples being the Froome / Dumoulin TT and power-climb-friendly routes.
        This can tempt certain riders, or styles of riders even, and there’s enough for everyone to go round?
        Whether RCS and ASO consult each other about this, I don’t know.
        But you would hope that they can and do so?

        • I just feel like overall the sport would benefit from the best riders riding against each other more often rather than it all being pinned on the Tour. If Quintana comes without form like this year, we’re left wondering for another year, and the years when it’s led to a Vuelta fight have been the best battles of recent times.

          I’m with INRNG on this.

          And would go further, taking the lead as mentioned above, from Tennis to have a a year long ‘tour’ that was workable for all riders to compete against one another multiple times and more comprehensible calendar for new fans rather than separate concurrent races – this would involve races being dropped, a shorter year and a complete overhaul with a focus on finding new fans/markets because, for me at least, even when we’re talking about funding for teams, it’s quite obvious cycling needs an overhaul.

          • Agreed. The Vuelta is a consolation prize. But given that more people fail to perform in the Tour than succeed that has made for some very hotly contested and open Vueltas.

            I know it won’t happen but what I’d like to see is for the Giro to become a rouleur/puncheur grand tour. A parcours which would likely lead to a Sagan/GVA showdown for the GC. Really shake things up a bit – it could be the crowning conclusion of the classics season!

      • It kind of reminds me of the whole Brexiteer thing, are the riders and public harping back to a time in the old days where riders would ride everything and have the possibility of winning everything?

        However in the context of todays racing its still an admirable target IMHO

    • But this does give them the opportunity to vary the parcours slightly, at the moment the Alpine stages are pretty much always stacked in the final week to avoid potential snow disruption. This change would maybe allow those to be bought forward and bring some more options for the organisers.

  2. The unfeasibility of the double is symptomatic of the shortcomings of the professional cycling calendar in general. Incoherent to all but hardcore fans and lacking a ‘building’ narrative across the season to consistently grab the attention of the media. A radical transformation would require the UCI and ASO to act professionally and unselfishly – so don’t hold your breath – but it’s the only option if the end goal is to gain further (and long term) investment in pro cycling.

    How about four simultaneous world championships running throughout the calendar year for grand tour riders, one week (middle mountain) stage racers, one day classics specialists and sprinters?

    The grand tour championship could consist of (2 week?) Italian and Spanish races, plus the (3 week) Tour, with perhaps one further 2 week race somewhere warm in Feb/March. You can still win the coveted race-specific jerseys, but you ultimately accrue points to become world champion in your discipline.

    One day classics could be spread across the calendar from Omloop right through to Lombardia. I guess this would most closely resemble the current F1 structure. (As we know, F1 is incredibly popular despite being the dullest sport on earth…)

    Yes, you lose the ‘races within races’ concept to some extent and traditionalists would pine for the romance and history of the current state of affairs but cycling must do something to compete in an age of TV sport saturation. Having its star names competing consistently against each other in a simple, points based, discipline-specific world championship across the calendar would surely help?

    • For me a points system is just going to be an exercise in arithmetic, like the UCI rankings it means little to anyone because it depends on what value a committee puts on winning one race, on placing 7th in another etc.

      • Keep it simple… F1 style… perhaps double points for the Tour de France to keep ASO happy!

        Perhaps this isn’t the answer, but I feel that pro cycling has to reach out beyond the converted.

        • The above +1 was for INRNG’s point – points are pointless – each event can stand for itself, someone might be ranked in tennis but we all still know the value of Wimbledon to the Miami Open, it would be the same for the Tour vs Omloop etc. But I agree there is a lot cycling can take from f1, football to improve but it will never happen.

          • I think there is a big difference in these types of events – football gets played as a league or tournament, tennis likewise with rankings, F1 is a league, but fundamentally each game/event is the same. pro cycling has so many different types of race that they would need separate leagues and thats the problem ( like drivers from le mans competing with F1 in the same league using different types of races).

            There is the same issue with cycling’s world championship – its really just another one off race and not a world champion in any real sense when compared with other sports. The UCI needs to decide if it wants to continue to be a historic and haphazard collection of events or some form of championship, at which point all races would need to be re-scheduled. I would rather see riders having to compete in a percentage of races to be in the championship and then have their top proportion counted – thus still allowing for a selection of races to compete in and to compensate for a poor performance or crash.

    • honestly I just don’t think anyone would care… 5 monuments, 3 GT’s and a WC – everyone knows those are the races that really count, with other classics, week long stage races the icing on the cake that suits different riders/teams/sponsors at different times/geographys…. anything else is just an artificial construct…

    • I don’t think it has to be that complicated. I’m against a ‘championship’ and ‘season long (marketing) narrative’ for stage races because for me the grand tours are championships in themselves and everything else is just a warm up. But if you insist how about a championship based on points for placings on the gc down to 10th, with two of three counting. So to win you’d have to do (any) 2 grand tours in the year, which serious gc riders should do really. And if you were Valverde enough to do all 3 you’d drop your lowest placing.

      The old World Cup for 1 day races worked well and should be brought back. No more than 10, all monuments included obviously. Minimum of 225km per race. I’d limit the amount of climbing to 4000m and no uphill finishes. Then a ‘classics specislist’ could compete in them all.

  3. If team sizes are reduced, especially if it’s down to six riders, the Giro / Tour double is absolutely and utterly dead in the water, I’d say.

    • The six riders per team idea isn’t going to happen. First and foremost it’s been badly translated, Lappartient doesn’t really call for this in the original interview (and if he did want it, this wouldn’t happen as the teams would flatly reject it, the UCI just isn’t that powerful).

        • Sad to hear that! I honestly believe that would make racing much more lively. Look at all the U23 races, mostly run with 6 riders, way more attacks and unpredictable situations.
          After all, its Maths: Include more factors of randomness in any model and its less good, i.e. the outcome is less predictable.
          Of course, riders and team managers will not like it as it changes their usual habits (and power for team managers).. But it would be good for the sport.

      • If the Cycling News summary is anything like what he said, he definitely does have the mind-set of a small town mayor. He seems to base his opinion on what the press are saying not what the public actually wants (have they asked them?) and seems to focus on limiting Sky rather than encouraging the others to compete.

        • I read the original interview via the link in Inrng’s previous post and, to me at least, the idea of 6 rider teams was just one in a number of ideas he was throwing out, including more teams (in conjunction with fewer riders), banning earpieces and power meters, looking at course design…

  4. Out of interest, is there any scope the Tour would ever consider shifting further forward in the calendar? I know it did this year for a week due to World cup but is there any reason why it holds the spot it does in the year? I know Bastille day is during the tour but any specific reason?

    It would suit me if it did purely for selfish reasons as I’d love a family holiday following the tour but ideally would need to coincide with UK school holidays

    • Wel, they could opt to move slightly back or forth on the calendar, but they would be hard pressed to not include the Franch national day, Bastille Day; 14th of July… Basically the race must be arranged around this date.

      • And also: in most cases 2 weeks of the Tour always are during the Summer holidays in France. moving forward would mean only one week during holidays

  5. What about a Giro, Vuelta and then Tour season? ASO owns both so they could swap the two and the best riders could then do ‘the double’ with ample preparation time.

    • The Tour’s slot in July is perfect, it has all the holiday crowds, it has become a socio-cultural event and part of the summer tourist activities for many places. Run it in September and all this would vanish. The Vuelta would be even hotter too.

        • INRNG defo right on it not being possible to move Tour but I do still think you’re onto something Larrick – the season in football goes from August to April (kind of), there is a way of creating a season that ends with the Tour (and pos World Champs being placed after again) and starts Autumn/Winter – whether the Tour moves a week later/earlier or they start on the subcontinent and where the Vuelta fits is up for debate but it would make far more sense overall.

          I’ve said something along the same lines here before and been shouted down, but I firmly believe the current state of cycling benefits almost no one – the riders do not earn enough nor have the team security they deserve, many races struggle to survive, new fans are not been targeted on all continents…. and so much more….

          It will never happen but the sport could be so much better than it currently.

          • The current and future state of racing favors ASO. They could care less if most of the racing calendar disappears as long as their money making races survive.

            ASO does what’s best for ASO, not cycling.

          • Better? Or with more money involved? Name one sport where more money has improved the entertainment value. It’s already said elsewhere that money is the new doping.

          • Not necessarily more money actually – just a structure that allows for a fairer system of payments. It should give the opportunity of growth as should all sports, because reaching new fans should always be a priority.

            You say ‘not more money’ but to be honest, if more fans meant more money and there was a better route because of this for more African cyclists I would celebrate this, because a big issue in cycling for me is the lack of diversity. There are plenty of cyclists in Africa but few who have any way of reaching the pro ranks.

            It seems unfair to me that I can watch the Tour and pretend I’m Froome because he looks like me whereas kids whether they’re British, French or American with African heritage cannot.

            Yes I expect any system would be precarious and abused, but if it meant a Drogba or Pogba made it to the top of cycling I think that would be a good thing.

    • Le Tour will never abandon their prized July, mid-summer holiday time slot. Nor am I inclined to believe they will work with the Giro.

      At the rate ASO is buying up races I am certain there will be a big calendar shift coming and ASO will not have one regret over squeezing out RCS

    • There seems to have been quite a bit of lamenting the sprinters not getting to Paris, but you only have to go back a couple decades to when they would all do a week and pull out anyway.

      I just wish they’d knock this ridiculous procession around Paris on the head, it’s a really dull way to end a great race. Bring back an ITT for me, meaningful racing on the last day. This will never happen though because of ’89 and the Frenchman Fignon losing on the last day to an American. They’d be worrying about a repeat of history – even though they have nobody capable of winning the tour in reality.

      • The idea that the ASO is bias against anything that didn’t deliver a French winner is utter drivel. 1989 was fantastic for the Tour and if they thought a TT as the final stage would give the same level of close result I suspect a TT would end every Tour. In reality, in most years the result would be clear before the final TT and as TT’s are very dull viewing it would turn the final stage into a snore fest. At least the current processional format gives a final sprint to look forward to.

      • It’s only really dull because the broadcasters insist on showing us full coverage of the peloton rolling along laughing and joking for 60km before they reach the circuit. If they instead used that time to do a proper recap of the Tour, intercut with just the odd brief shot of the champagne toast, photocalls, and retiring riders leading the peloton in, only picking up full live coverage as they start to race, it would serve as a decent celebration of the event.

        • And the broaddcasters hold you on gunpoint and make you watch these 60km? Whoever switch on the Tour broadcast at final day before the last lap, has definitely too much spare time.

  6. I feel about Vegni and Co the same way Kim Jong Vaughters feels about Unzue. The difference is I freely admit that I couldn’t do a better job, but know of someone who can (and did)…Zomegnan.
    The Giro survived the stupid Israel experiment, how many more dumb ideas (like moving it around on the calendar) will it take to destroy it to the point ASO takes it over like the Vuelta?
    I wonder what they’re thinking when they say they want to avoid bad weather, but every highlight video they run shows apocalyptic scenes of snow storms, rain, etc? Seems pro cycling wants to profit from the tales of epic exploits under challenging conditions of the past, they just don’t want to race under them in the present. And they wonder why less and less people watch on TV?

    • True, but while the epic rides through the snow do make the highlights the stages cancelled or shortened due to inclement weather do not.

    • Larry T – great point – the highlight reels for the Giro often include the epic weather. And as a fan of cycling, the epic weather and how the riders cope is what endears me to the sport.

      Honestly, moving the Giro 1 week later will barely make a difference. I mean, look at the huge snow mounds in the Alps, and can anyone honestly say that they will be completely gone one week later!?! Zero chance.

      If the Giro wants a race with zero snow, then move it to August. Otherwise, deal with it.

      But then in terms of any effect on the actual profitability of this, would moving it improve profitability significantly? That’s what we should be discussing.

      • C’mon, nobody is saying the snow will all be melted one week later! And how is moving the race a week later on the calendar going to improve the revenue? Gawd, I wish they’d bring back Angelo Zomegnan, a kindred spirit to the great Vincezo Torriani, IMHO. W Il Giro!

    • “Fewer and fewer (snic snark) watch on TV.” That applies to just about everything I imagine. Modern times are hard for us old guys to understand. I do agree about Zomegnan though.

  7. Imagine tennis players skipping Rolland Garros because they want to play at Wimbledon instead?
    Ivan Lendl skipped Rolland Garros in 1990 to prepare for Wimbledon.

        • I was thinking that – federer and others have been ‘managing’ their seasons for some time now. Nadal typically does not play a full season (some rumours that he does this so he can dope out of competition – scurrilous rumours, no doubt, but tennis seems to be rather behind the times in terms of doping control).

          the giro has been a better race than the tour for the last few years (perhaps just due to its more exciting geography/geology) so I don’t see it as a huge problem if the teams are weaker. there are always big names (this year we were missing quintana, nibali, porte but we had all the other big hitters – well, not thomas…).

  8. Interesting piece. Just to note that the World Cup is slated to be held in Qatar during November and December in 2022, so it will likely be 2026 until there’s any issues with a clash between football and cycling in July. Plus, the 2026 edition is taking place in North America so the time zone difference would likely again exclude any clash.

    This was a once in a career opportunity to have that big a gap between Giro and Tour, should anyone else think of taking it on with the current calendar.

  9. Not referring to the double but in order to get better fields for the Vuelta and Giro, just ban Sky from entering them. I think that would make, almost, everyone happy.

    • Wuh? Those two are way-less predictable than Le Tour, and Sky have won each precisely once. They’re nowhere near as nailed-on to win the race as in July, so I don’t think it will help.

      • I don’t think the Italians who were singing the Chris Froome song, accompanied by cow bells, during his stage win interview would agree with you.

  10. If it’s going to happen again, it will likely be an Italian who is forced by sponsors to do the Giro and then decides for some reason to still ride the Tour. Maybe he gets lucky and its a weak year with crashes and can slip into the win.

  11. Sorry in case it’s been mentioned above, but maybe ASO would consider moving both the Tour and Vuelta back a couple weeks. The Vuelta is certainly not in danger of adverse weather conditions.

    Although, and again sorry if it’s been mentioned, but would it not be in ASO’s interests to keep the gap between the Tour and Giro because the big names would chose the Tour to the detriment of the Giro. The ability the ability to do both may reduce the general perception of the Tour’s preeminence.

  12. I never understand the perception the fields are diminished at the Giro and Vuelta. The pro peloton is so incredibly deep these days, all these teams can field exceptional teams producing phenomenal racing without necessarily including the marquee rider. Rest assured Nibali would be there. Aru would be there. And if Soren Kraugh Anderson is leading Sunweb, awesome. Landa or Soler leading Movistar. Pinot or even G Martin leading Groupama FDJ. Sky can go without either Thomas or Froome and it still be cool. The racing is still great. And it’s fantastic to watch these other riders develop in front of your eyes given the opportunity.

      • Movistar’s priority is probably more on fielding their big names for their home Grand Tour. Also as Landa has shown it’s always easy for a super-domestique to become a successful 3 week contender, although those singing hosannahs about Bernal do seem to have overlooked this reality.

    • I think the perception is only amongst those that don’t follow cycling too closely. They see Froome choosing the Tour instead of the Giro = they think the Tour is better.

  13. After reading all the ideas presented here, I think everything is fine, as is. I submit that the Giro is the most exciting GT, BECAUSE it doesn’t have all the stars. It brings new riders into prominence, and that’s a good thing. The Tour is more calculated because it’s the most important-live with it. The Vuelta is the ‘leftovers’ or ‘revenge’ GT, but always produces great racing. It works!

  14. A minor quibble. You seem to be getting down on the Giro for paying appearance fees. In principal, some form of additional revenue sharing with the teams would be potentially very healthy for the sport. This is not that, either likely the amounts or the transparency. But, looked at differently by all parties, it could be a good thing.

    • It’s more their a hidden thing and tend to reward the big teams for star riders, the teams with big budgets get more income.

      One novelty for 2018 is that teams have to disclose appearance fees in their annual filings with the UCI, it’s not public but it will help teams see what is happening.

  15. The lack of attempts on the Giro/Tour double is a consequence of the overwhelming importance of the Tour. I know it’s been this way for a number of years but for many non-aficionados cycling IS the Tour, and the over-emphasis on the Tour means that teams have to go all in to keep sponsors happy, and everything else is secondary.

    The answer? I don’t know. Perhaps the UCI should mandate a calendar change that encourages more riders to target more than one GT. Except Lappartient isn’t likely to want to annoy ASO.

  16. Inring, it’s rare you miss an important detail, but there one of the biggest reason, if not the biggest reason why the double is now almost impossible, is how the Giro is raced compared to 70’s and &0’s. Back then riders would show up and use the first week almost as a training camp. The bigs did not allow the race to be too hard until it mattered. Sprint stages were truelly, tappe di trasferimento. Now the race is all out from day 1.
    Moser and Saroni were not interested in killing themselves early on. The Giro now is set up as a stand alone race, not a 3 week training camp. Back in the 80’s many of the big Direttore would say the best prep for the TdF was the Giro.
    Clearly not anymore.

  17. The logical thing to do would be to switch the Giro and Vuelta on the calendar. The Giro would no longer need to worry about mountain passes still closed from the winter, and the Vuelta riders would have a respite from the stifling heat that afflicts Spain in late summer. Also, top riders could do the Tour first and then decide whether or not to follow up with the Giro, without putting their main goal at risk.

    • When the calendar was redone (remember the Vuelta used to be the first GT of the season) they tried to get the Giro d’Italia to take the later spot now occupied by the Vuelta. They vehemently refused the idea.

      • I remember that but maybe they’re more open now to give it a try. Bring all parties to the table and make them sign an agreement that they will try it for the next three years. If one party wants to go back to the status quo after that period they will be able to do that.
        Or Giro and Vuelta could alternate their places in the calendar every second year?
        There will be no shortage of snow-free mountains in Spain for the Vuelta and the Giro could be raced in mostly beautiful conditions.
        But don’t do it because of the Giro-Tour / Tour-Giro double. Who or rather how many do(es) actually care whether someone achieves that or not? We want to see riders at their best trying to win /reach their goals on that individual stage race without taking into account whether they have already done another race before which might reduce their performance.
        I very much would also like the UCI and the race organizers being more open to experiments. Why not try what we get when we reduce a GT to two weeks?
        One week stage races are usually ridden full gas on each stage as no one has to conserve energy for the second or third week. I would have liked if Simon Yates had won the Giro. His attacks did the race good. Sadly it was a little too long for him. The consequence will probably be that next time he will also try a more conservative approach. And we have seen in this years TdF how that affects the race. Only on the very last mountain stage we had some pretty race going on. Just sayin’.

        • I was explaining to my ageing Mum last night about how Geraint Thomas’s achievement of a three week stage race win illustrated that he had mastered speed, endurance, health and luck better than any previous year. A two week tour has less emphasis on health and luck and for my money becomes a different thing.

          If you want thrilling racing for attracting audiences and building the potential value of sponsorship, concentrate on upping the profile of one day races. Those can provide the necessary excitement. Phil Gil, GVA and Sagan should be the stars of our sport that the general sport fans are aware of. Does the Women’s World Tour template help?

          As others say, unless there is a concerted effort to disrupt the value of ASO’s annual beanfeast, nothing will change. Force them to reconsider by devaluing their event.

        • I’m definitely not an everything was better in the (mythical) old days person, but some qualities you cannot change without fundamentally changing the nature of a thing. A Grand Tour is three weeks. If it’s not three weeks, it’s not a Grand Tour. If that’s too bad for Simon Yates, that’s bike racing. Being able to last for three weeks is a huge part of winning GTs. If you can’t do it, you don’t deserve to win one. What rider would get excited about winning a two-week “Grand Tour” that no one would take seriously?

          I do think exploring a two-week race format could be good. I have no idea how it’d fit into the calendar – probably existing races would have to be excised and/or combined – but conceptually it could be interesting, perhaps lead to more attacking riding. Or perhaps not, who knows, but it’d be worth a try. Just, please, enough with this nonsense about shortening a Grand Tour and continuing to call it a Grand Tour.

        • I hope RCS does not consider this idea. I don’t remember who was in-charge when they rejected the switch to post-Tour, but I hope Vegni and Co are not stupid enough to throw tradition away for no good reason. Next someone will suggest they follow ol’ Shill Phiggett’s idea of making the leaders’ jerseys the same colors for all the Grand Tours…so he won’t be confused.

  18. Given the future changes, winning the Giro-Tour double will likely need some or all of these 3:

    a) Race organisers deliberately designing the routes to suit the preferred winner.
    b) Rivals having terrible luck.
    c) Dop***.

    So (as pointed out in other comments) the double win is probably something that shouldn’t be coveted in the future. Meanwhile, perhaps it would be better for both the Giro and the TdF if the TdF weren’t perceived as so uniquely prestigious… but perceptions and the economics won’t change easily.

  19. At the risk of being accused of not liking change, I like the current calendar. Each grand tour has its attractions for different reasons. Maybe we should be looking elsewhere for the changes – using technology to enhance coverage for instance – to attract more people to the sport.

  20. I was thinking about this the other day; there should be at least 6 week gap between each GT – and even then that might not be enough. Having the Vuelta only 4 weeks after the Tour is mad. Just move it back 2 weeks, so it ends 3rd/4th weekend of September. And have the World Champs either a week, or more likely 2 weeks later. After that, there is really only Lombardy…I don’t know what the major issue is.

    The sport should be doing so much more to promote and improve – but sits on its hands doing the square root of FA.
    Of all the sports I follow, the amount of times I shake my head in disbelief at the amateur way cycling is run is incalculable. Still stuck in a time warp…

  21. Cycling’s calendar actually appeals a lot to me. Hard to put into words but fotball, tennis, so many other sports seem to just press the repeat button every year and do the same thing all over again. United, Chelsea, Federer, Nadal, is there no end to this record? Cycling offers a fresh script every year, courses change, start lists are uncertain, every race lives its own race, never fully comparable to last year.

    Anyways, doesn’t mean everything is perfect. I just don’t feel the need to view Barcelona vs Real or Froome vs Nibali seven times a year.

    • “I just don’t feel the need to view Barcelona vs Real or Froome vs Nibali seven times a year.”

      Makes me think of Scotland, where you’re seemingly never more than 5 minutes from an Old Firm match (Rangers v Celtic) as I think they’re guaranteed to play each other at least 3 times a year in the league alone.

  22. You could produce a calendar in which your team had to race. Say, you need to compete in MSR, PR, RDV, SB, Paris Nice, the three GTs and climax at Il Lombardia. You have a team of limited riders, you must compete in each event and overall points give rise to a points/league table. It means your riders must compete at the same races, and follow a similar training plan, and makes fans invest in a team.

    The main problems I can see with this is that you’ll create a second division of races – but maybe that’s part of the point. You get two tiers, but the competition is better….

    Food for thought, but chances of the race owners, UCI and teams figuring the details out are nil

    • I absolutely agree RQS.

      It will never happen.

      But a reduced calendar, smaller teams, etc etc (I would argue that they’d need to build in a much bigger non-European focus if possible) would make for such a better sport overall.

    • RQS: your first paragraph almost exactly describes the current UCI WorldTour.
      All WorldTeam teams (with a max roster size – perhaps you would argue the current size is too big) must compete in all WorldTour events (including all the ones you list; plus many more – perhaps you would argue too many more).
      The results produce the WorldTour ranking.
      So: the race owners, UCI and teams did figure out the details, and ended up with the current WorldTour.

    • But you can’t force teams to compete seriously at every event. If, for example, Sky are only really interested in focussing on the tour, even if you make those same riders turn out at MSR, they could just climb off early, or trundle round as if it were a training run.

  23. Lots of great ideas shared here, so I thought I’d through in one crazy one. What if all 3 grand tours were shorter – not only in total distance covered, but also in duration. Personally, I find 200km+ flat stages incredibly boring. What if each stage had a maximum distance of around 150km’s or so, including mountain stages. And then, maybe limit the duration to 16 or 17 days and only 1 rest day. I think that there would be way more aggressive riding because teams wouldn’t be able to wait until the last few stages to make moves. Want to win the race? Attack early and often.

    • It sounds to me like you find cycling boring. Cycling is not an all action sport where you watch for an hour and it’s all action until you turn it off. It’s a slow burner, best on in the background sometimes and there is small bursts of action here and there. In that sense it’s similar to test cricket. it’s also similar to test cricket in that people are desperate to destroy it to suit tv and to attract ‘new fans’, which is of course code for money. There are already short bike races in doors on wooden tracks and in parks in Belgium. Maybe you should watch them, or the uci should promote them as the short form of the sport for short attention spans.

      • I’m with you Richard S…I don’t know (or care) anything about cricket, but I too am a bit perplexed by all the talk of “fixing” pro cycling. Lot’s of things need to be fixed but to me they are the insane costs to field a competitive team at the top level and the drip, drip, drip of dope scandal, plus a few other issues that you are all aware of since I complain about them all the time.
        But “fixing” it to attract the people addicted to the instant gratification of social media, Youtube video and TV trash/action “sports” is a dead-end. Few of those with attention spans measured in seconds would ever become real bike racing fans while those who currently are fans would see their favorite sport destroyed.

  24. It ain’t broke!

    One of the real beauties of cycling is that I takes about 5 years of watching it before you begin to understand it! The tactics, the complicated calendar, the nonsensical rules, written and not, the subtexts, histories and characters. This barrier to enjoyment rewards those who persist and enjoy it for what it is. Why does it need to be “more accessible”?

    The different characteristics of the 3 grand tours, the fact they’re suited to and favored by different riders and the result that there often isn’t a neat head to head measure is imprecisely perfect.

    It’s the ambiguity that leaves you wanting more.

  25. In response to Richard S, I don’t find cycling boring at all. I am an avid cyclist myself and have been watching the one-day classics and the 3-week grand tours for many years. I love the strategy! I think the dominance of any particular team – for example, Sky as of late – has created situations where other teams are hesitant to attack and go all in. Though, to be fair, I really only find this to be an “issue” with the Tour – the Giro and the Vuelta tend to be much more open. Hence, my comment about the 200km+ flat stages where the teams of the sprinters only come into play in the last 50km to reel in the breakaway group.

    Having said all of that, I don’t find anything really wrong with cycling as it is. Strong teams will come and go, as will strong riders. My only hope is that there will be enough sponsors around to support a competitive number of teams.

  26. The Giro and Vuelta should swap places. Spain is generally OK in May. Simlarly Italy is generally good weather early September.

    Start the Vuelta fist weekend in May, gives a 5 or 6 week recovery window until the Tour.

  27. It seems that RCS and its directorate are not believers in global Warming (aka Climate Change).
    If they wait long enough there will be little chance of snow in the high passes in April.
    This is half in jest but change is happening and it ain’t all weather.
    The Giro is my favourite until the Tour starts and then the Vuelta is wonderful.
    Vive la Difference.

    • Climate Change and melting glaciers and permafrost in higher mountains will lead to more landslides in these areas coming decades. So you trade one advantage for another possible disturbance. Only snow season is more predictable.

  28. I’m miming this article in my room because I can hear Phil Liggett actually saying the words “pause and then go again a month later leaves little time to rest and rebuild, you’re cooked once from the Giro, twice from the Tour”


  29. I like the current billing of the 3 grand tours. I do however think the racing is better at both the Giro and Vuelta and, if they want a greater share of the talent, they need to raise their profiles. this would require a re-think at how the races are viewed, the content of the broadcasting and the focus on pulling in a wider audience. The on board cameras are the way forward. Also ditch the young riders jersey. I think there should be a breakaway/ combativity jersey where those in the breakaway are awarded points for staying away until, say, 5kms from the end of the stage. His could mean we might have some really exiting racing on those long flat sprinters stages where most people only watch the last 20 minutes. To the average person, the TdF is the only bike race in the year and, as far as TV is concerned, is the only one that gets proper media attention. I also agree with a previous comment that the’best’ riders don’t need to do more than one tour as there is a breadth of talent to draw from. For me, it should be more about raising the profile of the other grand tours to glean greater public interest. If you build it, they will come.

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