Fabian Cancellara has told Cyclingnews he thinks the nine sectors of pavé during the finale of stage 5 at the Tour de France on Wednesday could cause carnage in the peloton, especially if it rains during the stage as forecast.
Cancellara confirmed he will have 100 per cent freedom to target the stage victory, rather than the responsibility to protect and work for Trek Factory Racing team leader's Fränk Schleck and Haimar Zubeldia.
"The cobbles are going to be carnage. I hope not, but we've got to be ready for it," Cancellara told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview.
"I hope nobody crashes and loses a chance of winning the Tour de France because of what happens on the pavé. But it's racing. Roubaix is Roubaix. We all know what it’s like."
"I've already been asked if I'll ask for the stage to be neutralised if it rains but this is different. I know that it’s not a nice stage for Froome, Contador, Nibali and even our GC riders. But my reply is: so why not take out the climbs to make it easier for us? That never happens, so it's only right we race on the cobbles. It’s a risk for everyone, including me, but we've got to live with it and calculate the risks involved."
King of the cobbles
Cancellara has won Paris-Roubaix three times. Apart from 2012, when he fractured his collarbone in a crash at the Tour of Flanders, he has finished in the top three in both races every season since 2010.
Nicknamed Spartacus, Cancellara uses his power and experience to dominate the cobbles and defeat his rivals. He is expected to be close to the front of the peloton when the riders hit the first sector of pavé at Carrefour de l'Abre and then will no doubt try to distance his rivals on the later sectors.
The ninth and final sector –from Helesmes to Wallers ends just 6.5km from the finish at Port du Hainault, near the start of the Arenberg Forest. The Tour de France stage does not include the legendary Trouée d'Arenberg sector of pavé that so characterizes Paris-Roubaix in April. At just 155.5km it will be a shorter and more intense day of racing.
"It won’t be like a Classics race in April, it'll be completely different," Cancellara suggested.
"It might actually be even faster on the pavé because as we've seen in this Tour, the teams of the overall contenders have really controlled the racing. I'm sure it'll be the same before the cobbles.
"The cobbles starts early, with 68km to go, then there's a gap and then there's the finale with hardest four sectors of pavé close together in the last 24km.
"I'll have total freedom to ride my own race and target the stage victory, 100 per cent. We'll be thinking and riding as a team but it'll be up to Fränk (Schleck) to be up there with me. Last time we raced on the cobbles he was fourth wheel but then got taken out. So it's not about protecting a leader, you have to know and be ready to handle he cobbles.
Cancellara said that he wasn't the only rider targeting a stage win on the cobbles. Riders like Sep Vanmarcke from the Belkin team, among others, will also be looking for the victory. "There are a lot of riders who will make it a hard finale," he said.