A rose-gold gauntlet has been thrown at the feet of double Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar. Shortly after the final announcement of the 2022 Giro d’Italia’s very climby route, race boss Mauro Vegni sent out a challenge to the young phenom.
“I don’t think winning the Tour de France three or four times makes much of a difference to a rider’s career,” Vegni told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “When you win it once, you’ve proved you’re a great rider and there’s little else to prove.”
The veteran race organiser also suggested that most don’t have the longevity to keep winning for years on end, so the 23-year-old should get himself to Italy before his decline begins – that's right, Vegni is talking about a 23-year-old rider's 'inevitable' decline.
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“These days the riders are much more ready to win great races at a young age than for a long time,” Vegni continued. “It’s a pity that nobody seems to have the desire to try to win the Giro-Tour double. If I’m not wrong, the last was Pantani. So perhaps it’s time for a rider to add their name to that roll of honour.”
Only seven riders have successfully completed the epic feat that is the Giro-Tour double, and Vegni is right that Marco Pantani was the last one to do so in 1998.
Before ‘Il Pirata’, Fausto Coppi was the first, doubling up twice in 1949 and ’52, then came Jacques Anquetil twelve years later. Eddy Merckx (obviously) managed it thrice in the early seventies, Bernard Hinault won himself two doubles in the early eighties, before Stephen Roche’s triumphant 1987. Miguel Indurain is the only one on this list to win both the Giro and Tour in consecutive years (’92 and ’93).

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It should be noted that the Giro-Tour double is rooted in a darker, less virtuous period of cycling history. Perhaps the clearest example is Pantani, whose ’98 Tour was marred, and the peloton depleted, by the Festina Affair. Pantani himself was kicked off the following year’s Giro after he was found to have high haematocrit levels, considered to be a hallmark of EPO abuse.
There have been several attempts in the modern era, with Chris Froome coming closest in 2018. He won the Giro in unusually dramatic fashion, coming from behind after two weeks of floundering in the outer reaches of the top 10, then went to France hoping to double up and win his fifth Tour, but ended up finishing third behind his teammate. Might he have had a chance if Geraint Thomas hadn’t brought such blistering form?
Our runner-up would have to be Alberto Contador who managed first and fifth at the Giro and Tour in 2015 – almost a carbon copy of his wiped 2011 record. Nairo Quintana comes to mind as an obvious example, but he only tried it once in 2017. He fell just short in Italy after battling with Tom Dumoulin, and his tilt at the Tour was so disappointing (12th) that there were protests – Colombians accused Movistar of ‘burning out’ their prodigal son.
Someone for whom burnout has yet to be an issue is Pogacar who has, believe it or not, only raced three Grand Tours in his still blossoming (gulp) career. He made his debut at the 2019 Vuelta where he won three stages on his way to third overall and the best young rider’s classification, obviously. Otherwise, he’s never met a Tour de France he couldn’t win.

Tadej Pogacar stands atop the Tour de France podium, but could he one day win both Le Tour and Il Giro?

Image credit: Getty Images

The 23-year-old is yet to make his debut at the Giro, but he has said he intends to give it a crack some day. For now at least, the Tour – with the Vuelta as optional extra – remains firmly at the top of his priorities. And fair enough! If he keeps up with his own track record, he could easily exceed the elusive *cough* five-Tour record long before his 30th birthday.
As for the Giro-Tour double, it’s a superhuman feat that looked like being consigned to the history books – until recently. Vegni may have to wait a few years, but if there’s anyone with the strength and resilience to take it on, it’s Pogacar.
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