LA TOUSSUIRE, France (CT) – One of the last riders to take the Giro-Tour double, Stephen Roche, has said that he believes Alberto Contador’s participation in the Route du Sud may have been the reason why the Spaniard’s tilt at the same goal evaporated this year.
“It is very easy to look for faults when it is all over. If you are talking about one particular excuse, I’d say that’s the one,” Roche told CyclingTips on Friday.
“Not the fact that he rode it, but he rode it to win it. He dug a little bit of reserves for it and he won it, although you can’t hold it against the guy because we love the guy for the way he races.
“Even though there was four and a half weeks difference between the Giro and the Tour, I think the Giro is so hard now you need the extra week to recover. So I think that maybe by wanting to ride that race in the middle, maybe it is the race too much.
“We all knew Contador was getting close to his best before date, so it is a very, very fine line between what he does being too much and not enough.”
Roche is working on the Tour de France as a Skoda ambassador and appears in the start village each day. He’s one of the better-known faces there, not least because he became only the fifth rider in history to complete the Giro-Tour double in 1987.
He was then followed eleven years later by the Italian Marco Pantani. The latter is the last to achieve that feat, with many riders trying and failing in the years since.
Both Roche and Pantani took a complete break from racing between their two Grand Tours, heading into the French event and then sharpening up as the race progressed.
In contrast, Contador competed in the Route du Sud and won that, then headed to the Tour. However he never appeared at 100 percent of his form in that event and, with one mountain stage to go, is sitting fifth overall.
He is seven minutes 56 seconds behind race leader Chris Froome (Sky), whom he beat in last year’s Vuelta a España.
However, while things didn’t work out this year, Roche said that he didn’t necessarily think that Contador should focus solely on the Tour next year.
“It depends on the way it is done and what he does in between,” he said. “I think that maybe his problem was riding the Route du Sud. I still like to believe that Contador could still do a double but it depends on the profile as well. This year’s [Tour] profile is very, very difficult.
“Even if he only rides one Tour, it can also go against him as this year winning the Tour of Italy means you are also going to the Tour de France with a Tour in the bag, so you can relax a bit more. Whereas going to the Tour having put all your eggs in the one basket is sometimes more strenuous and more complicated than having one Tour in your bag.”
Froome has said that if he wins the Tour de France he will consider riding the Vuelta a España and racing for victory there. Roche points out that the Tour/Vuelta double is very hard in itself, not least because of the very mountainous nature of the latter event.
Because of that, he considers the Giro/Tour double as the more achievable of the two.
It remains to be seen if Contador will aim for the double again next year but, having tried and failed to do it in both 2011 and this year, it may well be the case that he avoids taking that on once again.
Does Roche believe that another rider in the peloton could become the seventh in history to take both events in the same year?
“I think Froome could do it. I think Quintana, with more time, will do it. And there is a nest of young riders coming through like the Pinots, the Bardets, the Barguils. All these guys for me are going to get stronger. They are all very young and I think that there is a lot of potential there.”
As for the notion of chasing wins in all three Grand Tours in one season, something Contador was once considered to be thinking of trying, Roche believes there is a very slim possibility of that being achieved.
“It is impossible. Well, not impossible, but the way the programme is today is impossible,” he said.
“The riders are preparing themselves for peaking for a certain race now. It would be practically impossible to win all three Tours.
“I don’t see anybody there today who could even dream about it. It is impossible.”