Defending Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali recently took an opportunity to pre-ride some of the cobble sectors that will be used in this year’s race. The Astana team leader extended his advantage over his general classification rivals on the cobbles last year, and he is no doubt hoping to excel there again.
"It was a good scout," Nibali told Sporza after his tour of the cobblestones in northern France. "It was important to ascertain the pressure in the tires and to see the material and the bike."
The cobbles will come this year during the Tour de France's fourth stage, the longest of the race at 221km. The stage will feature 13km of cobbles split up over seven sections. Nibali said after the reconnaissance that he and the team now understand how to attack this year’s cobbled stage.
“The sectors are heavy, especially the first one, which is very narrow and bad,” he told Sporza. “The stage is also very long. In the final, you will feel the fatigue. "
"Like last year, this will be a very important journey,” he told Sporza. "Last year we knew we could do well, but perhaps not that we would catch so much time on direct competitors. We have the experience of last year, but we must always take into account other great riders like [Alberto] Contador, [Nairo] Quintana and [Chris] Froome. They are my biggest rivals."
Nibali will have Boom on his side this year after the Dutch rider transferred from Belkin to Astana. The former cyclo-cross wold champion told Sporza he hopes his presence will make the Astana Tour squad even stronger.
"Astana last year was already strong," Boom said. "Hopefully I will make the team even stronger and do something beautiful.”
Boom also said this year’s cobbled stage is “less difficult” than last year’s.