Closest Grand Tour Ever

Two stages to go of the 2017 Giro d’Italia and Nairo Quintana, Tom Dumoulin and Vincenzo Nibali are separated by just 43 seconds. But not only that, look down the general classification a bit further and there is also a mere 90 seconds separating Quintana and Domenico Pozzovivo back in sixth place, with Thibault Pinot and Ilnur Zakarin in between in fourth and fifth. This is remarkably close after over 85 hours of racing.

Is this the closest Grand Tour of all time?

Contador CartoonWell, of the last 30 years, it certainly is. Any further back than that and data is hard to come by. You’re in the realm of trawling through newspaper archives for each edition of each race. And given the short window that this stat is in anyway relevant – if anyone else feels like doing that to themselves, go for it. You’ve got a few hours left before the G.C. in this Giro looks completely different.

The closest the top three have been in any of the three Grand Tours, with two stages to go, in the last 30 years was the 2008 Giro. Alberto Contador was in the pink jersey in a race he wasn’t expecting to ride until a couple of days before when he received an unexpected phone call while he was on holidays telling him his services were required. The Spaniard held a four second advantage over Riccardo Ricco and he was 21 seconds ahead of Danilo Di Luca in third place.

The closest top six of the past thirty years was also in that 2008 Giro. Separating Contador in first with Denis Menchov in sixth was 2’47”. Similarly to this year, there was a mountain stage and a time trial remaining. Contador, who grew stronger and stronger as the race went on, ultimately beat Ricco into second place by 1’57”. He was 2’54” ahead of Bruseghin in third and it was a relatively hefty 4’31” back to Emmanuele Sella in sixth.

The closest Tour de France of all time came in 1989 when Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon were separated by just eight seconds. But it was very much a two-horse race. Back to Delgado in third, there was almost two and a half minutes. And there was nearly 10 minutes gap to Mottet in sixth.Lemond Cartoon

The closest Grand Tour of all time (between first and second) was the 1984 Vuelta a Espana when Eric Caritoux finished six seconds ahead of Alberto Fernandez. But again, down to sixth, the gaps were bigger. Julian Gorospe was almost five minutes behind Caritoux.

With Grand Tours we’re used to the G.C. evolving over three weeks so that in general, two riders emerge as the strongest and we hope for a decent battle between the two as the mountains come thick and fast. Sometimes that hope is extinguished quite early in the race and it is clear that just one rider is out on his own as the obvious candidate for victory. Think Lance Armstrong at the 2001 Tour or Ivan Basso at the 2006 Giro. These are often the least interesting Grand Tours.

Very seldom are we presented with scenarios where three riders look like potential winners coming into the final days of the race, but never (in the last 30 years anyway!) has a Grand Tour been so close between six riders with just two stages to go. We should all enjoy this for the rarity that it is – the most unpredictable final weekend of a Grand Tour most of us can remember.


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