There’s a popular theory that the Giro d’Italia – Tour de France double does no favours whatsoever to a rider’s chances of reaching Paris in yellow. For evidence, most will point no further than Alberto Contador in 2015, whose tiredness in July, post his Giro d’Italia win, was palpable. Contador finished a below-expectations fifth that year in the Tour. More evidence? There was Contador in 2011 winning the Giro but, again, below-par in July with an identical fifth placing in Paris (this, of course, before he lost those latter results in any case because of his doping positive).
However, Movistar’s José Luis Arrieta, one of the directors who has worked the closest with Nairo Quintana over the last few years, has a slightly different take on the question of the pros and cons of the Giro-Tour double. For instance, Quintana’s combination of the Giro and Tour this year, Arrieta tells Cyclingnews, is based on the idea that Quintana aims to be in contention for the Giro, but his over-riding goal remains July. The team has hard evidence, Arrieta says, to suggest that a strong, well-fought battle for pink in May can lead to an even stronger performance in the Tour de France.
“When we decided to do the Giro d’Italia, the aim was – and is – to do it to be sure of reaching the Tour de France in good condition,” Arrieta says. “If, en route, we can win the Giro d’Italia, well, that’d be great, but the Tour remains the main objective and, together with Nairo, Eusebio [Unzue, team manager], and the rest of the Movistar management, we thought doing the Giro d’Italia could be a good way forward for that.
“With his innate qualities as a racer and with the training and buildup he’s had, if everything goes well, then of course Nairo will be in the fight to win the Giro. But the big goal is do the Giro d’Italia to see if, in the process, he comes through to the Tour a little bit fresher and a little bit better than last year.
“So we’ve done the reconnaissance, the build-up and the training to fight for the Giro, but we are also looking at the Tour.”
Movistar’s logic behind this approach and their choices of Quintana’s Grand Tour challenges this year, Arrieta claims, was partly inspired by how teammate Alejandro Valverde claimed a third place in the Giro and sixth in the Tour – by far the best ‘combined’ performance of any rider in both Grand Tours – last summer. But there’s more to it than that.
Arrieta argues that “Alejandro was the strongest rider in the Tour last year, with the exception of Chris Froome and last year’s Tour was the best one Alejandro’s ever done”. That wasn’t justified in the results in Paris, of course, but Valverde was not on a GC mission in last year’s Tour, Arrieta points out. However, it turned out to be vital for Quintana’s own GC bid in the Tour, where he finished third overall after an uneven series of mountain performances. “Alejandro had a clear idea, too,…