With the Grand Depart of the 101st Tour de France just a month away, Omega Pharma-Quick Step are one of the 22-teams who will be competing in the race who are busy preparing for the July 5 start. With stage 5 of the Tour visiting several sectors of pave more accustomed to being pounded by the peloton in April, riders are equally excited and anguished by their return as the sight of Chris Froome (Team Sky), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) studying and previewing the pave suggests.
Mark Cavendish, who has ridden Paris-Roubaix on one previous occasion, was one of nine Omega Pharma-Quick Step riders who reconned nine sections of pave. With a strong cobbled classics team that would normally see him watching the action from the couch, Cavendish is excited by the opportunity to join his teammates for the exploration over the pave.
"I've only ridden one Paris-Roubaix, I'd love to do it again," Cavendish said. "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."
Stage 5 from Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut is only 156km — 101km shorter than this year's Paris-Roubaix — and as a result, the stage won't be a replication of "the hell of the north" but Cavendish still expects it to be a tough day of racing with the GC men thrown into the mix.
"The stage is how I expected," Cavendish said "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."
Omega Pharma-Quick Step reconned the following section of pave that will feature in the 2014 Tour de France:
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)