PARIS (Reuters) - Tinkoff-Saxo’s proposal to pit cycling’s top four grand tour riders against each other in the Giro d‘Italia, Tour de France and the Vuelta could provide a perfect platform to make the sport more attractive to a wider audience.
Last week, team owner Oleg Tinkov offered a $1 million prize pool to be shared between Giro winner Nairo Quintana, Vuelta champion Alberto Contador, and the last two Tour de France winners Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali to battle for supremacy on all three grand tours.
However, the Russian businessman’s eccentric character meant that his proposal was generally met with a wry grin and considered something not to be taken too seriously.
On Monday, team CEO Stefano Feltrin gave the project more substance, revealing Tinkoff-Saxo had actually approached rival teams.
“This isn’t a joke or a publicity stunt. We are very serious about it and we feel it is a proposal that will help cycling move forward,” Feltrin said in a statement.
”We first approached the other teams during the recent Vuelta and we are encouraged by the recent positive reaction to our idea. We look forward to further discussing it with the key stakeholders.
“Team Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué said he thought it was a good idea while Team Sky manager David Brailsford thinks it has a lot of merit,” Feltrin said.
Feltrin added that 2015 would be a good year to trial the scheme because there was “no major international sports event... it might even be the biggest sports story next year and capture the attention of audiences that don’t usually follow cycling.”
It is unusual for top riders to take part in all three grand tours with a credible hope of prevailing in each one of them.
Six riders, including Contador and Nibali, have achieved a career hat-trick across the races but nobody has managed to win all three grand tours in the same year.
Contador did complete the Giro-Vuelta double in 2008 while the last rider to win the Tour de France and another grand tour in one year was the late Italian Marco Pantani in 1998, who won in France and Italy at a time when doping was rife in the sport.
(clarifies Pantani feat in final par)
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by John O'Brien