The dust has scarcely settled from Paris-Roubaix, but already riders are turning their attention to stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France, when the race will cover nine of the pavé sectors which were used in the just-completed Monument. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) tested out the cobbled sectors today, scouting the conditions as well as trying out equipment all under the supervision of his new coach Steven de Jongh.
The 156km stage from Ypres to Arenberg will be a critical stage for the Tour contenders, who must traverse the ancient roads which they normally eschew.
"It has gone well, I've seen the first part of the stage in the car and last 75 km by bike," Contador said. "I have especially studied the equipment, which is most important here."
The Tour de France covered some of the same sectors in the 2010 edition, where the race covered seven sectors at a total of 13km. This year, the tally rises to 15.4km, including the 2400m long sector at Sars-et-Rosières which took out Frank Schleck and Janez Brajkovic in 2010, the 3700m sector at Hornaing and the dreaded Carrefour de l'Arbre, which is the first the riders will encounter at kilometer 87 in the stage.
"Clearly the most critical will be the first sections, because there the group will still be very large and there will be more fighting to get into in front of the group," Contador said. "After there will be more selections.
"I think it will be a more difficult stage than in 2010 because first sections are more complicated."
The Tour de France stage will travel in the reverse of the direction which Paris-Roubaix uses, first hitting the Carrefour de l'Arbre, a five star sector in Paris-Roubaix, but only part of which will be used in July. A 1400m, three-star sector, Pont-Thibaut follows at kilometer 103.5, after which the pavé comes in rapid-fire succession.
1000m of the five star Mons-en-Pévèle, the entire four-star Bersée, the Orchies - Beuvry-la-Forêt sector, the 2400m cobbles of Tilloy and 1400m at Brillon - Warlaing all follow in the space of just 25km.
It will likely be the 3.7km long, four-star rated Hornaing sector which will wreck havoc on the peloton, coming at kilometer 140, while the Wallers sector, 1600m in length, will be there at kilometer 149 to finish them off.
"The feeling on the cobblestones has been good, but we must not forget that this is just a workout, it's not the race, and there wasn’t rain, which can complicate everything. The wind will also be very important. Today it was blowing pretty hard, and in that case it will be important to have a strong team."
Contador tested out the Specialized Roubaix with Zipp 303 wheels and tires pumped to various pressures, noting the weight difference between Classics riders and GC men will make a difference in what is used.
Tour de France Stage 5 pave
1 - Gruson au Carrefour de l'Arbre 1100m, km. 87 ***** (Paris-Roubaix sector 4, half used)
2 - Ennevelin Pont-Thibaut 1,400m, km. 103.5 *** (Paris-Roubaix sector 8)
3 - Mons-en-Pévèle, 1000m, km. 110 ***** (Paris-Roubaix sector 10, 1/3)
4 - Bersée, 1400m, km. 114.5 **** (Paris-Roubaix sector 12)
5 - Orchies - Beuvry-la-Forêt, 1,400m, km. 125.5 *** (Paris-Roubaix sector 13)
6 - Sars-et-Rosières - Tilloy, 2,400m, km. 131 **** (Paris-Roubaix sector 14)
7 - Brillon - Warlaing, 1,400m, km. 135 *** (Paris-Roubaix sector 15)
8 - Hornaing, 3,700m, km. 140 **** (Paris-Roubaix sector 16)
9 - Hélesmes - Wallers, 1,600m, km. 149 (Paris-Roubaix sector 17)