It happens every year, without fail. We’re in the second week of the Tour, and the number of candidates for the final yellow jersey has whittled to a few. More likely than not, none of these candidates will have ridden the Giro. And so the pundits proclaim you cannot win the Giro and Tour in the same year anymore, in “modern cycling”. Frankly, that conclusion makes no sense to me because they are looking at it the wrong way round.
Let’s flip it around. Think back to January 2010 and ask yourself who you thought would win the Tour. Chances are you thought it would be Contador, Schleck or Armstrong. Guess what? None of them participated in the Giro. So while it is true that Basso, Evans and cohorts rode the Giro and now won’t win the Tour, truth is they wouldn’t have won the Tour if they hadn’t ridden the Giro either. It’s not because of the Giro that they won’t win, it’s because they don’t have what it takes to beat Contador, Schleck and Armstrong (at least not what it takes to beat all three of them).
I love the “remember how strong Basso was on the climbs in the Giro, and now look at him” argument. Last time I checked, he wasn’t dropping Schleck and Contador on the Mortirolo. He was climbing strongly, as he is at the Tour, but the riders around him are different. “How about Menchov then?”, I hear people protest. He won the Giro last year, then finished 51st in the Tour. Yes, but he spent more time on the pavement than on the saddle in the first week of that Tour, he was out of it before he got in. And don’t forget he finished 5th in the Giro and then 3rd in the Tour in 2008.
No doubt the Giro has an effect on a rider’s performance at the Tour, but to make a general statement that the effect is negative goes too far. Depending on how tough the Giro is (obviously this year’s was VERY tough, as is this Tour), on the weather and on the rider, I am convinced the effect can be both positive and negative. If we want to see a double, all it takes is to see Contador at the start of both. If he wants to, he can win both. The question is does he want to? I hope he does, this sport needs riders with the ambition to become legends, not “just” Tour de France winners.