One of the big problems in professional cycling is that we don’t get to see the best Grand Tour riders in the world ride head-to-head often enough.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

Tinkoff-Saxo's owner Oleg Tinkov wants to change that and so too does the International Cycling Union (UCI) with its long term plan to rejig the World Tour calendar.

"We proposed in an very informal way to the other teams. We believe the best riders should go up against each other in the biggest stage races in the calendar, it seems logical to us," Tinkoff-Saxo general manager Stefano Feltrin told Cyclingnews.

"It's a clear way to show who is the strongest rider in the sport. If (Chris) Froome and (Vincenzo) Nibali also ride both the Giro and the Tour, it's good for the sport and there can be no excuses about who is the best Grand Tour rider."

Sounds great. But...

When the match-ups do happen the contest is always captivating and legendary, battles you remember for a lifetime. But usually they only come around once a year at the Tour de France, making them all the more delicious.

Remember the anticipation of the Froome, Nibali, Alberto Contador matchup at the Tour? That didn't go so well so we immediately got edgy for the Vuelta a Espana battle to come after both Contador and Froome crashed out of the Tour.

I'll put aside the "neyah, neyah, neyah, c'mon ya pussies, I want a piece of you" Twitter performance art that usually passes for commentary by Tinkov to focus on what needs to be done to make his pitch more of a reality.

Let's be blunt. There is a reason why the late Marco Pantani is the last man to win the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France double (1998). He was a massive career-long doper.

The Pantani career path is something I don't wish to see replicated again, but Tinkov's online bravado could again see the sport riding down that road.

History after Pantini shows that riders, with rare exception, who do attempt the double, usually crack or fade away in the final week of the second event. Even during the drug-fuelled era in which seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong dominated.

Under pressure to effectively race the Tour de France a month after winning or placing highly at the Giro, an athlete may be tempted to turn to doping to manage the effort required. This could fuel a return to the arms race of the past.

The physicality of Grand Tour cycling resembles that of elite marathons where it's only possible to peak a couple of times a year, after a lengthy period of recovery between events. Adam Hansen aside, racing two three-week events at the highest level separated by only a month of rest is nothing less than abusive to an athletes body.

The only way to produce highly anticipated contests lies with the as yet to be fully finalised plan by the UCI to rearrange how professional men's cycling works on the global sporting stage, with the interests of the health of the riders and credibility of the sport coming before the Tinkov trash talk.

It's time to put tradition and emotion aside, the sport has one Grand Tour too many, it needs to be reduced to two with dates changed to give enough space between events to allow teams and riders to recover and prepare effectively in order to go head-to-head. May for the Giro and August for the Tour.

The UCI has already begun the process of reducing the calendar to an easily understood package of events in order to broaden its appeal. With this is a mooted reduction of race days for riders and corresponding reduction in team roster size.

The head-to-head competitive future of men's professional cycling lies in these sensible ideas, not Tinkov's bravado.