The Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double win in the same year is the Holy Grail of cycling and has yet to be seen in this century. It will be pursued by Tadej Pogacar, the Slovenian champion who was not yet born in 1998 when Marco Pantani achieved success in the ‘world’s toughest race in the world’s most beautiful country’ and at the Grande Boucle, the last to do so. He would see the light a couple of months later from the Pirate’s arm raised by Felice Gimondi on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

It was a very different kind of cycling from today’s, but one in which if there is a rider who fascinates the public the way the Romagnolo did, it is the UAE Team Emirates rider, the number one favourite for the Giro d’Italia that starts from Venaria Reale on 4 May, even though he has never raced it. At 25 years of age, he is already in the history books with 70 victories as a professional, including 6 Monument Classics and 2 Tour de France, he wants and can enter the legend. At the start of this year, he has dominated to such an extent that it seems easy to achieve feats of yesteryear (just think of the 81 km solo breakaway at the Strade Bianche) and possible the pink/yellow jersey double, which nobody has managed for 26 years.

So far, 7 riders have succeeded. Out of 150 editions of the Giro and Tour, since Fausto Coppi’s first one-two in 1949, the pairing has only succeeded 12 times. The ‘Campionissimo’ did it again in 1952, then the French Jacques Anquetil in 1964, the Belgian Eddy Merckx three times in 1970, 1972 and 1974, the French Bernard Hinault in 1982 and ’85, the Irish Stephen Roche in ’87, the Spaniard Miguel Indurain in 1992 and ’93, and finally the Pirate of Cesenatico in 1998.

To understand how one can concretely aspire to a terribly complicated challenge, which starts on 4 May from Venaria Reale and will end in Nice on 21 July, just a few days before the start of the Olympic Games in Paris, which the Tokyo 2021 bronze medallist has no intention of missing, we asked Andrea Morelli of the Mapei Sport Research Centre in Olgiate Olona (Varese), who has been following professional riders since the days of Team Mapei, for his opinion.

«I have always been very sceptical about the possibility of a Giro-Tour double, but Pogacar and Geraint Thomas, who will attempt the feat this year, have my full respect. It is much more realistic to think of having two peaks of form in the season and aim for the Giro and Vuelta. Maintaining condition for almost three months, assimilating the fatigues of three weeks of racing and with only four weeks between the first grand tour and the second on the calendar is a fascinating but extreme challenge. Also because we know that in stage races all it takes is a small mistake or a pinch of bad luck to wreck months and months of work» explains the trainer in the latest episode of Cubetti di Sapere, recorded in his office where the yellow jersey won by Cadel Evans in 2011 with BMC and the pink jersey worn in 2022 by Juan Pedro Lopez, competing in this edition with Lidl-Trek, who relies on the Varese centre for periodic functional evaluation tests.

The choice to test the Giro in conjunction with the Tour this year is no coincidence. The route of this edition has ten thousand metres of altitude less than in 2023, it is 44,500, and in particular the last week is not as extreme as in the past. There are two time trials, in Umbria (Foligno-Perugia, 38 km) and on Lake Garda (Castiglione delle Stiviere-Desenzano, 31 km), very well suited to TT specialists such as Pogacar and Thomas, who a year ago was beaten only by Primoz Roglic on the penultimate day of the race. There are two key stages in the mountains: the 15th with the finish in Livigno Mottolino, after tackling the Mortirolo from the easier Brescia side of Monno, and the 29th, penultimate, with the double ascent of Monte Grappa, Semonzo side: that of Nibali 2010 and Quintana 2014. It is on these days that the Giro, known for having pitfalls scattered everywhere, will be decided.

«If everything goes smoothly over the 21 days of the race (in sport we know that luck also has an impact!), for those aiming at this ambitious goal it will be essential to manage themselves perfectly in the month that separates the Giro and the Tour – continues the head of the Movement Analysis Laboratory at Mapei Sport. -We need a period of rest from the fatigue accumulated in Italy, without losing too much of the condition to be competitive again in France. Generally the difference is the energy left in the last week of the Grande Boucle, and the fateful ‘bad day’ – if you’re really lucky – will fall on the rest day. In my opinion the one-two is an almost impossible challenge, but champions of the calibre of those who will attempt it in the next few days will perhaps prove me wrong».

Thanks to the Giro d’Italia TV for the video coverage.