How 22km of cob­bles could shake up the GC be­fore the first week’s over...

Cycling Weekly - - Tour De France 2018 -

The sense of ex­pec­ta­tion cre­ated by Christian Prud­homme’s con­fir­ma­tion that the 2018 race will fea­ture nearly 22km of cob­bles says ev­ery­thing about why they are back on the Tour menu. The TV au­di­ence will be huge on that Sun­day, which also fea­tures foot­ball’s World Cup Fi­nal later in the evening.

Froome, of course, never made it to the cob­bles when he slid out of the Tour on a rainy day in 2014, but in­sists that, while aware of the risks they present to ev­ery GC con­tender’s prospects, he’s quite happy to tackle them. “Con­trary to what peo­ple think, I like the pavé,” he af­firmed in Paris be­fore jok­ing that he might line up for Roubaix next year as prepa­ra­tion.

Oth­ers, no­tably Nairo Quin­tana and Mo­vis­tar’s man­age­ment, were not as up­beat. There are 15 sec­tors of cob­bles equalling 21.7km, the most since 1981, on a stage of just 154km, a dozen of them packed into the back end of it. The most no­to­ri­ous sec­tions from Paris-roubaix may be miss­ing, but they do take in four and five-star stretches that fea­ture in “The Hell of the North”, no­tably at Til­loy, Auchy, Mons-en-pévèle and Cam­phi­nen-pévèle.

The cob­bles al­ways claim a GC vic­tim or two. If it rains, the gaps the pavé cre­ates could end up be­ing sub­stan­tial.

Vin­cenzo Nibali’s proved his prow­ess on the pavé in 2014

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