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Photos Courtesy OPQS
The Tour de France is all about preparation. Training and equipment have to be just right, nutrition and the prior race schedule need to be dialed. A huge part of that preparation in the modern era has been pre-race reconnaissance of critical stages. Usually this means big mountain passes and time trials, but in 2014 many of the teams will preform recon of a flat day – stage 5. Stage 5 includes 9 cobblestone sectors, infamous due to the carnage they cause at Paris – Roubaix in the spring. Riders will traverse the entire Carrefour de l’arbe and the almost four kilometer long Wandignies-Hamage – Hornaing sector. Organizers have spared riders from the majority of Mons-en-Pévèle, with only one kilometer of the three kilometer passage included in the Tour route.
Omega Pharma – Quick Step, one of the most experienced cobblestone teams on the world tour took nine riders out to recon the nine sectors on Monday, including Mark Cavnedish, Tony Martin and their young GC hopeful, Michal Kwiatkowski. Along the way the were treated to one of the rarest sights in professional cycling – a grand tour winner on cobblestones. Chris Froome was out with some SKY teammates doing a recon of his own. He knows, as do all GC hopefuls, stage 5 will likely eliminate more than one rider’s yellow jersey dreams before the mountains even rise on the horizon.
Omega Pharma – Quick Step made the comments of the DS, Rolf Aldag, Mark Cavendish and Michal Kwiatkowski available on the team’s website today.
“Obviously we want to recon the course, but also see how people fit on the Specialized bikes and adjust everything so that we are ready. Some of our riders never raced on the cobblestones before. I think Kwiatkowski is, out of the GC contenders, one of the most capable of riding on the cobbles. He did it last year with a spectacular Tour of Flanders, and races like E3 Harelbeke, and so on. I think he’s used to it, so it won’t be shocking. It’s more about the tactical situation for him at the Tour de France rather than getting used to the feel.”
“The thing during the Tour is you have different interests. You have a limited number of riders who go for the stage wins, because they still have captains for the GC they have to protect. So, it’s going to be a slightly different race that isn’t as clear as a Paris-Roubaix where you have a Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara, or Sep Vanmarcke and all the teams will support their guys to clearly win that one-day race. At the Tour it’s a little more complicated. You may see teams that maybe will chase, not because they want a stage win, but maybe in that group there may be a GC contender who will try to get away before the cobbles. It’s a completely different situation. It’s two races, really. You have a race for the stage and a race for the GC. And also, luck matters. Don’t crash, don’t have a mechanical. You need to also judge the tactics the right way and have the right strategy. Hopefully, all of that comes in line for us, and we are preparing as best we can for what we can control.”
“Today we warmed up and saw how the last kilometers will be before the cobbles. We then rode all of the cobbled sectors. We stopped and checked tire pressure and adjusted the bikes accordingly. Also, we taped the recon on video so it’s available for everyone because leading up to the Tour, people might forget some of the details. It’s always good to confirm it with data and video.”
“It’s the first time in my life I rode a section of Paris-Roubaix cobbles. It’s interesting to feel it on your own, rather than watch someone else do it. I’m feeling really good. I’m enjoying it. I did Tour of Flanders in the past, it’s maybe not the same but it’s still cobbles. For sure the stage will be interesting for the spectators. For us it will be a nervous day and we will need to be focused. But, OPQS in the past made some small results on cobbles (laughs), so it’s a good thing that I can gain experience on the cobbles with the team.”
“I’ve only ridden one Paris-Roubaix, I’d love to do it again. But, we’re the strongest cobbled classics team in the world and we can win every one. For me to just want to ride, just for an indulgence when there are stronger guys to do the job, it’s better to watch my team smashing it while I’m at home. But I’m excited the cobbles are in the Tour again. We’ve got a strong team for it, and I’m excited for the race. ”
“For me I like expectation from the team. We’re the most powerful team in the world across all races. To go in it, with the expectation to perform. It’s a good pressure to have. For sure we’re going to have a strong team at the Tour de France and for sure this is one of the key stages we’d like to do well in. The stage is how I expected. It’s nowhere near as tough as Paris-Roubaix, but in the first week of the Tour after the hard start in the UK, it won’t shake up the GC. But it should be an interesting stage for the spectators and the riders.”
The Cobblestones of Stage 5
Gruson – Carrefour de l’arbre (1,100m)
Ennevelin – Pont-Thibaut (1,400m)
Mons-en-Pévèle (3,000m in Paris-Roubaix / 1000m in Tour de France)
Bersée (2,600m in Paris-Roubaix / 1,400m in the Tour de France)
Orchies – Beuvry (1,400m)
Sars-et-Rosières – Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes (2,400m)
Brillon – Warlaing (2,400m in Paris-Roubaix / 1,400m in the Tour de France)
Wandignies-Hamage – Hornaing (3,700m)
Hélesmes – Wallers (1,600m)