By Martyn Herman
(Reuters) - Britain's Chris Froome will attempt to become the first rider to claim the Giro d'Italia/Tour de France double for 20 years after confirming on Wednesday he would tackle both races in 2018.
Italian great Marco Pantani was the last man to achieve the feat in 1998, since when several greats have tried and failed.
Team Sky's Froome won the Tour de France for a fourth time in five years in July before going on to become the first Briton to claim victory in the Vuelta. If he wins the Giro he would be only the third rider to hold all three Grand Tour titles at once.
With the three-week 3546.2km Giro beginning in Jerusalem on May 4 and the Tour starting two months later Froome is taking on a daunting task, but he is confident he will be in optimum shape to rule in Rome and Paris.
"It's something the team have considered carefully and we've talked about a lot," the 32-year-old Froome said in a statement.
"We know that it would be a significant feat in the modern era to win both the Giro and the Tour in the same season, but the way we managed things this year gives me confidence that I can successfully target both races."
Froome, who has not ridden the Giro since 2010 and is yet to claim the Maglia Rosa, could benefit from an extra week between the two races next year, owing to a slightly later Tour start due to the clash with the soccer World Cup in Russia.
The Giro, which will feature eight summit finishes and brutal climbing days in the final week, promises a fierce battle for the general classification with Froome up against twice former winner Vincenzo Nibali and 2017 champion Tom Dumoulin.
"It's a unique situation for me, having won the Tour and Vuelta and now having the opportunity to go to the Giro and attempt to win a third consecutive Grand Tour," Froome said.
"It's really exciting to be able to take on a new challenge, to do something that perhaps people wouldn't expect and to mix it up. It's a whole new motivation for me to see if I can pull off something special next year."
Team Principal Dave Brailsford said he was excited about Froome's chances.
"We'll be taking Chris to the Giro with the aim of winning three consecutive Grand Tours, and then going on to France with the goal of winning the Tour," Brailsford said.
"Some of the very best riders have attempted to win the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in the same season but very few have been successful, it's a challenge we have enormous respect for."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Ed Osmond)