Felix Lowe

With the fi­nal Grand Tour of the sea­son ap­proach­ing, short-sighted cy­clo­scribe Felix Lowe gets dou­ble vi­sion

Cyclist - - Contents -

Eu­rosport’s blog­ger on the chal­lenge fac­ing Chris Froome as he at­tempts to com­plete the Tour/vuelta dou­ble

The thing about dou­bles, Nairo, is that you have to win the first one, oth­er­wise it’s just a sin­gle. And if you don’t win the sec­ond ei­ther, well, then it’s just a plain zero – or, to put it less bru­tally, a mere tak­ing part.

Lots of rid­ers in­con­se­quen­tially take part in a Grand Tour dou­ble. Many, such as Lotto Soudal’s Adam Hansen, vol­un­tar­ily put them­selves up for nu­mer­ous Ground­hog Years of triples (al­beit with no se­ri­ous ex­pec­ta­tions be­sides an es­cape from hav­ing to train). The ma­jor­ity of even the very best rid­ers never win more than a zero when at­tempt­ing mul­ti­ple Grand Tours in a sin­gle year. Only nine have done the dou­ble.

Of those, seven have done the Giro-tour dou­ble (the one that flum­moxed a pre-tour Quin­tana at the first hur­dle when he was caught short by Tom Du­moulin in the Giro – if you ex­cuse the in­verse dou­ble en­ten­dre).

Three have done the two-fin­gers-toFrance hip­ster dou­ble of the Giro and Vuelta (the one that this year Du­moulin has de­cided to show his mid­dle fin­ger to).

But what of the Tour-vuelta dou­ble, which Chris Froome came within an Al­berto Contador am­bush of claim­ing last Septem­ber? Only a pair of iras­ci­ble French­men – Jac­ques ‘To pre­pare for a race there is noth­ing bet­ter than a good pheas­ant, some cham­pagne and a woman’ An­quetil (1963) and Bernard ‘When I see pot-bel­lied cy­clists wear­ing the yel­low jersey, it ap­pals me’ Hin­ault (1978) – have achieved a feat not re­peated since the Vuelta shifted from late April to its cur­rent late Au­gust slot in 1995.

Why? Well, the Vuelta was once viewed as an elab­o­rate train­ing race. It wasn’t ex­actly bidons of san­gria, tor­tilla musettes and sad­dle sies­tas – but it was a far cry from the dou­ble-digit climb­ing cir­cus of to­day. In the past, the big-name rid­ers pre­sum­ably pre­ferred to train a few weeks later at the Giro, which had both pasta and pres­tige. Hence the higher rate of Giro-tour dou­bles over time, I sup­pose.

Once the Span­ish race shifted to its preWorlds slot, Tour-vuelta at­tempts be­came largely im­pro­vised – you didn’t tar­get the lat­ter un­less you crashed out of the former. Or you were Span­ish and had noth­ing to lose, such as Car­los Sas­tre in 2008.

Can you blame Sas­tre? For years a GC jour­ney­man and do­mes­tique deluxe for Ivan Basso and the Sch­leck brothers, then the stars align, he has one good day on Alpe d’huez, and he’s a Tour win­ner. Which Spa­niard wouldn’t milk this glory on a three-week jolly around his home­land? To be fair, Sas­tre did make the podium.

Book­end­ing your sea­son with the Giro and Vuelta re­quires twin peaks, while re­cent his­tory sug­gests rid­ing the Giro be­fore the Tour com­pro­mises your chances in both (just ask Quin­tana and Contador). But car­ry­ing mo­men­tum from Tour to Vuelta is dif­fer­ent. Be­sides, any de­cent re­sult in the Span­ish se­quel is seen as a bonus.

It was 2015 when Froome had a first proper tilt at the Franco-span­ish dou­ble. Had he not rid­den into a wooden bar­rier in An­dorra, he could well have suc­ceeded. He was thwarted again last year when Contador and Quin­tana had the temer­ity to ride at the dou­ble while he was chew­ing the fat with Sky team­mates at the back of the bunch.

With Froome hav­ing seen off the triple threat of Rigob­erto Uran, Ro­main Bardet and Fabio Aru that loomed omi­nously in his rear-view mir­ror for the ma­jor­ity of this year’s Tour, he’ll never have a bet­ter chance at join­ing An­quetil and Hin­ault in the record books. And as we said: to do the dou­ble, you first need the sin­gle, even if it was a some­what drab, unconvincing and Mikel Landa-as­sisted sin­gle.

There was a mo­ment, when Froome briefly con­ceded yel­low to Aru, when it looked like the sea­son’s only vi­able dou­ble im­pre­sario would be Du­moulin – fol­low­ing in the tyre tracks of Eddy Mer­ckx (1973), Gio­vanni Battaglin (1981) and Contador (2008) in suc­cess­fully peak­ing for pizza and paella in the same sea­son.

But the Giro win­ner’s de­ci­sion to forgo the Vuelta means there’ll be no dou­ble Dutch – even de­spite Du­moulin’s pen­chant for a good num­ber two. So, in­stead it’s all eyes on Froome to go fourth-time lucky in the Vuelta and dou­ble down fol­low­ing his Four de France. Who knows – he may even win a stage in do­ing so. When it comes to pun­ditry, Felix Lowe ad­mits to dou­ble stan­dards

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.