Chris Froome is one of four top riders being offered a share of €1 million to compete in all three of cycling’s Grand Tours next year.
The offer came from Team Saxo-Tinkoff owner Oleg Tinkov, and was also sent to Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, Giro d’Italia champ Nairo Quintana and Vuelta a Espana victor Alberto Contador.
Russian Billionaire Tinkov believes that seeing the best battle frequently on the big stage would boost the sport, and while it seems unlikely that it will become a reality, the plan was met with excitement in cycling circles.
Team Saxo-Tinkoff spoke out further yesterday to confirm their commitment to the concept.
“This isn’t a joke or a publicity stunt,” said team CEO Stefano Feltrin. “We are very serious about this and we feel it is a proposal that will help cycling move forward.
“From a Fan’s point of view and from a sporting point of view – I think the idea has got a lot of merit…”
“The fact our team owner Oleg Tinkov is putting a financial incentive on the table is proof of our intentions.”
The challenge certainly is a big ask, with only 32 men having ever completed all three races in one season, and no rider having ever come close to winning them all in one year.
Nine athletes, including Alberto Contador, have won two of the three races in one term, but while it would undoubtedly be a colossal task to compete at the top end of all three, it would surely attract more attention to the sport.
Saxo-Tinkoff team manager Bjarne Riis insists that the challenge is tough but achievable, and Team Sky general manager Dave Brailsford – who manages Froom – admits it would be an exciting but unlikely addition to the tour.
“Racing in the three Grand Tours isn’t an issue in itself for the world’s best riders,” said Riis. “But winning or going for a podium place in all three is another thing.
“There is a very small number of riders that are able to accomplish such a remarkable feat and we still don’t know who they might be, because it’s not been done. That’s the beauty of the challenge.”
Brailsford added: “Seeing the best riders slug it out across the season at key races is what everybody would want to see. But I think there’s a there’s a reason why it hasn’t been done before.
“From a performance point of view it’s quite a serious undertaking, but from a conceptual point of view, from a fan’s point of view, from a sporting point of view – I think it’s got a lot of merit.”
While Nibali has hinted he will not take up the offer, there has been no word from Froome or Quintana, and although Contador is expected to focus on the Tour and Giro, Riss believes the rider has the capability to achieve the triple-podium feat.
“Racing in the three Grand Tours isn’t an issue in itself. Winning or going for a podium place is another thing.”
The manager continued: “He has the capacity to do it. Nevertheless, I think that extraordinary physical capacity alone will not be enough.
“It is a very important factor but a rider needs three more crucial elements – the ability to recover between races, the mental strength and a perfect preparation and planning of the season.”
In truth, it is unlikely that any of the riders will take up the million-euro offer for the season ahead.
It does make you think though, when, if ever, will someone make the attempt to truly compete at each of the Grand Tour stops?
If it does end up happening in the next few years, it could make the road-cycling circuit very interesting indeed.