Two sectors of cobblestones have been removed from the route of stage 5 of the Tour de France due to heavy rainfall in northern France. The race jury communicated its decision to the teams association AIGCP on Wednesday morning, before the start of the stage from Ypres to Arenberg.
Sector 7, the 1,000-metre stretch of cobbles at Mons-en-Pévèle, and sector 5, the 1,400 metres from Orchies to Beuvry-la-Forêt, have been removed from the course. The race jury deemed that they had been rendered too dangerous by the conditions.
“The race jury called me and they asked me to inform the teams that sectors five and seven would be removed from the route due to weather. If there are other changes then that’s up to the jury. Safety is one of the most important things for us so it’s a good call,” AIGCP managing director Luuc Eisenga told Cyclingnews.
As of noon local time, the other seven stretches of cobbles on the parcours were set to be tackled as originally planned, starting with the Carrefour de l’Arbre with 69 kilometres remaining.
The removal of the two sectors reduces the total amount of cobbles on the stage from 15.4 kilometres to 13 kilometres.
The stage to Arenberg brings the Tour peloton through terrain covered by Paris-Roubaix for the first time since 2010. On the corresponding stage four years ago, Fränk Schleck was forced out of the race with a broken collarbone, while a number of other pre-race favourites suffered setbacks in their bids for overall honours.
Sky manager Dave Brailsford welcomed the decision to remove the two most treacherous sectors of cobbles. "I think it’s a wise decision and the safety of the riders has to be put first," Brailsford told reporters in Ypres. "It’s a wise decision given the weather. Proportionally it will make it safer and it’s the same for everyone."
The slight reduction in the amount of cobbles on the route offers some respite, too, to Chris Froome, who picked up a wrist injury in a crash in the opening kilometres of stage 4. "Chris is sore, his wrist is sore so it’s not ideal but he’s in the right frame of mind and he’s a fighter. He’ll battle through," Brailsford said.
Classics specialist Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin), however, was among those to voice his disappointment at the news. “All sections should stay in!!” the Belgian wrote on Twitter.