Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has realised the difficulty and risks of riding on the nine sectors of cobbles that will characterize stage five of this year's Tour de France following a reconnaissance ride with several of his teammates.
The Italian will target the Tour de France, and so clash with Chris Froome (Team Sky) in July. He spent Thursday morning riding on the pavé with teammates Jakob Fuglsang, Lieuwe Westra, Tanel Kangert and Andrei Grivko, who are likely to protect him during the stage, and garnered some expert advice from former Classics winner Peter van Petegem. He also studied and tested various tyre pressures with staff from Specialized's Racing department.
"It's going to be a very difficult stage of the Tour de France," Nibali told l'Equipe after studying several of the nine sectors of pavé that will feature in the finale of stage five from Ypres to Arenberg.
"When it comes to the material and experience, it's about being a specialist. It's something new for me to ride on sectors of pavé like that. It'll be important to have the right bike set-up, learn thing about the pave and hope that everything goes okay…"
"For sure that you can lose the Tour de France here. All it takes is a crash or a mechanical problem and you can rapidly lose 30 seconds or a minute."
Astana directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli followed Nibali in a team car.
"We know that you can't become a pavé specialist in a day but it's about getting a feel for it," he explained.
"It'll be a day of stress for him, perhaps even more than for the others at the Tour de France. We'll try to learn as much as we can and train for a second time on the pavé tomorrow (Friday)."