Two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador completed a course reconnaissance of the cobbled sectors which will be used in the upcoming Tour de France in July, and he enlisted the help of Belgian Peter Van Petegem to help him hone his technique on riding over "the stones".
Van Petegem, a former winner of both Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, is an expert at tackling the worst that the area has to offer. He escorted the Spaniard as he rode sections of the route for the third stage, a 207km route from Wanze in Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, which heads across some of the same pavé sectors used in Paris-Roubaix.
"Having ridden both yesterday and today with a great champion like him is a huge advantage," said Contador. "He gave me a lot of advice on how to go into the pavé and about the equipment, etc. In these two days, I learned more about the pavé than in my whole life. His advice will be very important."
Scouting the route, Contador said, was also very important. "It was essential to get to know the route and test the equipment. I came away with good feelings about the behavior of the bike in the pavé sectors and a sense of security," he said.
Recent Tour de France history demonstrated how a treacherous section of the route can put paid to the hopes of a race favourite. In 1999 it was Alex Zülle who fell on the Passage du Gois and lost six minutes on the second stage.
Contador said he was not afraid, but had respect for the stage. "It will be very complicated, there will be a lot of pressure to be at the front, but in the end, the differences will not be important or non-existent. It is an important stage, but I am not obsessing about it."