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Andrew Talansky (Garmin Sharp) can hardly believe he's won the race
Americans reveal their hopes and fears for the big day on the pavé
American Tour de France contenders Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) warmed down and recovered on the rollers after Tuesday's fourth stage to Lille but like much of the peloton, their thoughts were already fixed on Wednesday's fifth stage from Ypres to Porte du Hainault close to the Arenberg Forest.
The 155.5km stage, and especially the nine sectors of cobblestones in the final 68km of the stage, are expected to scatter the peloton across the fields of northern France and perhaps see some overall Tour contenders lose vital seconds if not minutes.
Talansky and van Garderen will race the stage with different mindsets and different objectives, as reflects their different characters. 'Pitbull' Talansky told Cyclingnews that he and Garmin-Sharp are ready to bite, while van Garderen and BMC will be more guarded and defensive, aiming to avoid losing time.
"Fear? No!" Talansky replied bluntly but honestly when Cyclingnews asked if he was afraid of what could happen on the cobbles.
"If you look at a race and you're afraid of it, then you're going to have serious problems. We look at the stage as an opportunity to do something, to even possibly gain time on the other GC guys. We saw today that we've got a team that is built for the cobbles and we want to take advantage of that."
Van Garderen, on the other hand, is focused on staying out of trouble, not on causing some trouble to his rivals.
Greg Van Avermaert will have the freedom to ride for himself at BMC, with the rest of the team will act as bodyguards for van Garderen. The Belgian Classics rider is fourth in the overall classification, only two seconds behind Vincenzo Nibali and so only two seconds from taking the yellow jersey.
"It's not a stage I'm looking forward to. I know I've just got to stick on the boys' wheels as much as possible and stay out of trouble," van Garderen told Cyclingnews.
"It's not really the cobbles that is the hard thing, it's the fight going into the cobbled sections. I'm more worried about fighting with 200 other guys than the effects of the cobbles. We had a little appitizer of it today when the peloton hit the downhill cobbled section after the Cassel climb and intermediate sprint."
Van Garderen has studied the cobbles during a recon visit to France in April and BMC has carefully planned its race strategy.
"I think we move well together as a team and that's important. We've got to stay focused and stay calm," he said.
"I'm not really looking to gain time, it's about not losing time. Though I'm sure someone who doesn't have the skills on the cobbles will get caught out."
"We'll focus on ourselves and ride our own race and not worry about what anyone else is doing. The goal is that we can come out of there still high up on GC and with all of our skin."