With just two weeks between the rescheduled Tour de France and Giro d'Italia this autumn, a bid for a first Giro-Tour double since 1998 looks nigh on impossible. But Alberto Contador, who attempted the feat in 2011 and 2015, has suggested that reigning Tour de France champion Egan Bernal can do it in the future.
Contador won seven Grand Tours during his career, including a Giro-Vuelta double in 2008, and also came out on top at the 2010 Tour and 2011 Giro before those titles were rescinded for his famous Clenbuterol case.
Bernal, meanwhile, turned pro in Italy racing for Androni Giocattoli but has yet to raced the Giro d'Italia. Last year, the 23-year-old won the Tour on only his second participation. He intends to defend his yellow jersey in September but has already said he would like to ride the Giro d'Italia in 2021. However Team Ineos have still to clarify who will be team leader in 2021, with Chris Froome's contract with Team Ineos ending this year.
"Maybe Bernal will be the first one to do the Giro-Tour double after Pantani," Contador told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I think he could do it already in 2021."
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Contador argued that it is possible to reach the form required to win both races, which usually allow for a month of preparation between them. The Spaniard said that a strong team is important at the Giro where, as he knows from his own experience in 2015, attacks often fly more easily.
"To be at the necessary level of form in both Italy and France is not impossible," he said. "But you must always have a top team around you, especially at the Giro so that you don't have to work harder than normal when you're attacked.
"Think about the 2015 Giro. I had Aru and Landa from Astana against me. They were so strong, and I was often left alone when they attacked. I still managed to win but I spent more energy than I had to, and I paid for it in France."
The top-heavy distribution of talent and resulting strength in depth of several top teams such as Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma would make it easier for a Giro-Tour double bid, said Contador when comparing the teams of today to those of riders who completed the feat in the past. Those teams would be able to field two separate strong support squads for each race, if needed.
"It's possible," he said. "It depends on the preparation and interests of the teams. Now, more than in the past, teams have an A and B squad. Indurain, Pantani and Armstrong were always sole leaders. Ineos, on the other hand, can be at the Tour with three winners in Bernal, Thomas and Froome. Three out of eight – that's crazy!"
Contador was less sure about the prospects of restarting the season on August 1, when Strade Bianche will, if the COVID-19 pandemic is under control, begin the rescheduled and condensed WorldTour calendar.
He is more optimistic about the later races. The Tour de France, for example, is set to start on August 29 and run to September 20.
"There can't be a 100 per cent guarantee [to restart in August]. Nobody knows if there will be a new spread of the virus and more deaths. Of course, things are getting better in most parts of the world and honestly, I'm more optimistic for September and the end of the season," he said.
"August is a tighter time frame. I hope it's possible to race but you have to consider that the whole world is at the same point. I wonder, for example, if it will be possible to travel between countries?"