Vuelta a Espana 2017: How does Chris Froome now compare against other cycling icons like Eddy Merckx?

 
Joe Hall
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In the pantheon of British cycling greats, Chris Froome’s latest and arguably greatest achievement leaves little doubt over his place.

Not only has Froome become the first Briton to win both the Vuelta a Espana and Tour de France in the same year, he is also just the third man in history to do so.

It’s been 39 years since Frenchman Bernard Hinault last won both Grand Tour events in a calendar year, with Jacques Anquetil in 1963 the only other racer to achieve the feat.

While any questions over his status as Britain’s best have been emphatically answered, Froome’s historic triumph raises debate over how he now compares to the all-time greats of the sport.

Read more: How much will Chris Froome and Team Sky get paid for winning the Vuelta?

Froome’s Tour de France record has only ever been bettered by four men: Miguel Indurain, Jacque Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Eddie Merckx.

Yet his failure — until now — to clinch a title from either the Vuelta or the Giro d’Italia means the 32-year-old remains a long way from the Grand Tour hauls of Hinault, Anquetil and Merckx.

And despite Froome besting them on the Vuelta this year, fellow competitors Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali belong to an exclusive club that still excludes the Briton as winners of all three Grand Tours.

Cyclists who have won all three Grand Tour events

Cyclist Tour de France Giro d'Italia Vuelta a Espana Total
Eddy Merckx 5 5 1 11
Bernard Hinault 3 5 2 10
Jacques Anquetil 5 2 1 8
Alberto Contador 3 3 2 7
Felice Gimondi 1 3 1 5
Vincenzo Nibali 1 2 1 4

Froome has shirked the Giro since being disqualified in 2010. The race has frustrated his Team Sky teammates too, with Rigoberto Uran’s second-place finish in 2013 their best performance to date.

Comparing overall wins – counted as general classifications triumphs and individual stages – Froome finds himself in a position familiar to any cyclist racing in the 60s and 70s: he is miles behind Merckx.

But then again, no one gets close to the great Belgian. Merckx had a staggering 133 wins to his name before retiring in 1978.

Read more: Team Sky and Chris Froome pick up record prize money at 2017 Tour de France

Froome has 42. That’s more than Anquetil, but less than all the other racers who currently have a Grand Tour grand slam to their name.

Yet compared many of the other names on the list of the Grand Tour’s best, Froome is racing in a more competitive and arguably more intense arena.

His back-to-back Tour de France and Vuelta titles, for example, compare favourably against Anquetil and Hinault’s.

Hinault had 46 days between winning the Vuelta while it was staged in May and starting the Tour de France, while Anquetil had 39. Froome had 37 days to recover from one triumph before commencing the next.

Furthermore, Froome has had to beat fierce competition from 21 other squads, all backed with money and modern sports science. In contrast, Anquetil had 12 teams to contend with when winning the Tour in 1963 and nine on the Vuelta, while Hinault beat 10 and nine other teams respectively.

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