Never to be underestimated, Rabobank's Russian leader Denis Menchov is looking rock solid after four stages of the Tour de France. Unlike many of his competitors, the 2009 Giro d'Italia winner and two-time Vuelta a España champion has come through an unusually crash-plagued first few days upright.
Menchov ticked off another solid day on the 213km trek to Arenberg, coming in safely in the second group after being delayed by the crash of Fränk Schleck on the Sars-et-Rosières sector of pavé with 26km to go. He finished 11th, and is now in 13th overall, 1:49 behind race leader Fabian Cancellara, and only nine seconds adrift of defending Tour champion Alberto Contador.
Not a specialist in the Classics, Menchov was happy to find himself riding right alongside Paris-Roubaix winner Cancellara on the critical cobbled sector until his progress was hampered by the fall of Schleck.
"I'm very satisfied," Menchov said. "I have felt very good from the first day in Rotterdam and if you're good, then a high finish in this stage is possible.
"I did not fall and did not puncture, but I still missed the group of Cancellara because Fränk Schleck was in front of me when he crashed.
"All day I felt unafraid on the cobblestones. It was very nice," said Menchov. "I got a lot of good help from the other guys. Too bad there was a gap [to the group with Andy Schleck - ed.], but the result is acceptable and I am satisfied with my performance today."
Now that he has gone successfully over the pavé and emerged unscathed, does Menchov plan to race in Paris-Roubaix some day? The answer from the 32-year-old was unequivocal: "Not on my life."