Chris Froome ready to ride Giro d’Italia next year

Chris Froome crosses the finish line of the last stage of the 2017 Tour de France. (Laurent Rebours/AP)

MILAN — Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome will ride the Giro d’Italia next year in an attempt to win his third Grand Tour in a row.

After successfully defending his Tour de France title earlier this year, Froome went on to win the Spanish Vuelta for the first time. A victory at the Giro would make him the seventh rider in history to win all three Grand Tours — and only the third to hold the three titles at the same time.

The 32-year-old Froome made the unexpected announcement on Wednesday during the presentation of next year’s Giro route, with a brief video message.

"I’m looking forward to seeing you at the start line of next year’s Giro d’Italia," he said.

The announcement was greeted by surprise and a warm round of applause from the audience, which included past and present cyclists.

"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 in a statement from Team Sky.

"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."

Froome, who has not competed at the Giro since 2010, will also try to win the Tour for a record-equaling fifth time next year.

No rider has completed a Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998, but Froome has taken confidence from this season’s successful Tour-Vuelta effort.

"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," the British rider said.

"Another factor is that there is an extra week between next year’s Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. That’s one more week for recovery and for training than there would be normally."

Spanish great Alberto Contador, who is one of the six riders to have won all three Grand Tours, believes now is the right time for Froome to attempt the same.

"I think it was very intelligent from him," Contador said. "He’s won the Tour, he’s won the Vuelta and he has to try to win the Giro. He has very good legs and an equally good or even better team. So I think he’s in a good position."

Two-time Giro champion Vincenzo Nibali was the last cyclist to win the three races, completing his record with the 2014 Tour. And the Italian warns that Froome might not find it so much to his liking in Italy.

"Froome has said that he really prefers the heat, like at the Vuelta or the Tour," Nibali said. "He doesn’t have a good feeling with the cold and as we all know it can be very cold on the Giro. So we have to see how he finds it."

Even though the Giro takes place in May, cyclist have often had to combat snow and freezing temperatures in the mountains.

Next year’s Giro will start in Jerusalem and the following two stages will also be in Israel, marking the first time the race has started outside Europe.

Race organizers have said the route will not go through any land considered occupied by the international community. That means the course will circumvent the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as parts of a future independent state.

A group of about 15 protesters held Palestinian flags and posters criticizing the Giro outside the building hosting Wednesday’s presentation.

Race director Mauro Vegni told The Associated Press: "Everyone has the right to think what they want, they have the right — as long as the protests are peaceful — to express their thoughts."