When it comes to professional cycling, no events attract more global attention than the prestigious trio of ‘Grand Tour’ road races. Held consistently each year, these stage races are the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and the Vuelta a España. For generations of riders, winning just one of these titles once is often considered the pinnacle of their careers, although a select few champions have managed to win all three.
Throughout the history of the Grand Tour races, only six riders have ever managed to win all three during their careers. Perhaps as an indication of just how challenging each of these races are, nobody has yet achieved the feat of winning all three events in one calendar year. Some have come agonisingly close, including the greatest Grand Tour cyclist of all time, Eddy Merckx of Belgium.
Between a relatively short span of time between 1968 and 1974, Merckx amassed an incredible victory haul of five Giros, five Tours, and one Vuelta. This exceptional record of 11 Grand Tour event wins has never been matched, although Bernard Hinault of France came close, achieving 10 Grand Tour titles between 1978 and 1985.
Only one currently active competitor has managed to win all three Grand Tour events, which is British rider Chris Froome. His achievements include winning four Tours, one Giro and two Vueltas. Nearing the end of a successful career, Froome is unlikely to ever match the benchmark set by Merckx, although he could still equal the record of five career Tour de France victories.
Currently, just four riders in history have achieved the feat of five career Tour wins. They were Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain, who achieved five consecutive Tour triumphs between 1991 and 1995. Lance Armstrong won seven in a row, but his titles were all stripped. That said, the latest cycling betting odds are stacked against Froome equalling that record, given that he is priced at +2800 as an outsider to win the 2021 Tour de France.
Given their displays during the 2020 road racing season, Slovenian duo Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar are the stellar names of the moment, tipped for continued success at the trio of Grand Tour events in 2021. Roglic has won back-to-back Vuelta titles in 2019 and 2020, along with finishing second behind his compatriot at the Tour, where Pogacar claimed his first-ever Grand Tour stage race triumph.
Despite the age difference between 31-year-old Roglic and 22-year-old Pogacar, they form part of an exciting new generation of cyclists, ready to begin dominating at the Grand Tour events. Seemingly ready to follow the path set by Froome over the last decade, British cycling also has a new darling in the shape of Tao Geoghegan Hart, who won the 2020 Giro. The 22-year-old will certainly be one to watch over the next few years with Team Ineos.
Actually, Team Ineos are packed with talented riders and potential champions for the upcoming Grand Tour stage races, including the South American duo Richard Carapaz and Egan Bernal. In 2019, Carapaz won the Giro and Bernal won the Tour, setting out a clear indication they could be capable of many more titles.
As one living legend in the shape of Froome reaches the twilight of his career, the future of road racing is beginning to dawn for a host of talented new stars. Any one of them could set their sights on the Grand Tour benchmark and records established by Merckx almost fifty years ago. That said, given there are so many exceptional cyclists on the scene right now, the competition is arguably fiercer than ever before.