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Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)
Belgian riders happy with cobbled stages
While some of the overall contenders for the 2010 Tour de France may look with fear upon the route's early stages in Belgium and Northern France, the Quick Step team and Classics specialist Tom Boonen will certainly be aiming for victory on familiar terrain.
The route of stage one to Brussels may bypass the cobbled sectors made famous in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, stage two will pass over a portion of the route of the Ardennes Classic Liège - Bastogne - Liège and stage three will traverse a demanding 13.2km of cobbled sectors.
"This edition of the Tour will be special for Belgian riders and those who enjoy the northern classics," said Boonen. "The finish lines in Brussels and Spa are truly evocative. The third stage in Arenberg promises to be spectacular, with 11 kilometers of cobblestones during the last 30 kilometers in the race. It will be like a small classic and could bring some surprises."
Sylvain Chavanel considers the second week as more suited to his skills. "I'm thinking for example of the stages at Revel or Mende, which are very similar to the Colmar stage in the 2009 Tour. It's going to be fun. The odds-on favorites are always the same, but I think Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador are a step ahead of the rest."
Two-time Tour of Flanders champion Stijn Devolder said the days in the Pyrenees will be the decisive stages, but also warns of the dangers of the cobbles on stage three.
"The Arenberg stage will be spectacular, and dangerous for smaller sized riders like the climbers, who will have a tougher time than others with this finish line."
Jerome Pineau observed that the route gave opportunities for every type of rider. "The first part reminds me of the 2004 Tour when the cobblestones surprised a lot of the riders, including some of the guys in the top of the standings. The first week will be different than the ones we're used to. There will be curves, small roads, cobbles… It's a special route.
The race will most likely be decided on the Pyrenees. The fact that there will only be one long Time Trial scheduled at the end of the race will make the mountain stages all the more spectacular."
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