French newspaper La Voix du Nord reported on Thursday that the presentation of the parcours for the 101st Tour de France on October 23 could include three stages in the North of France and cobbled sections may feature.
Already revealed are the three stages that will kick off Le Grand Boucle in the United Kingdom, with Yorkshire to host the opening stage with a road race from Leeds to Harrogate. Once the race returns to France, a foray into the North and a possible excursion into Belgium are on the cards.
With Prudhomme spending time on Wednesday, along with fellow ASO employees, at the Grand Palais in Lille planning for next year's Tour, previous speculation over the possibility of including cobbled sections in one of the stages has been further fuelled.
The Tour last included cobbles during the third stage in 2010 where Thor Hushovd won the stage and Frank Schleck lost any hope of contesting the general classification after he crashed out.
Prior to that stage,12-time Tour de France stage winner, Robbie McEwen, explained the difference between including cobbles in a Spring Classic such as Paris-Roubaix, and in a Grand Tour stage.
"At Paris-Roubaix there is a natural selection of the rider who actually wants to ride on the pavé and who knows how to ride on it," he said. "Then in the race there's the natural selection of the race too. At the Tour we'll have the classics riders wanting to win the stage, the overall contenders trying to make sure they don't lose time and then all their domestiques, some who won't have a clue about the cobbles, doing everything they can to help them. It's going to be carnage."
Carnage did ensue, and for viewers, it was a veritable feast. But for the riders who lost out, large TV audiences and increased website clicks did little to ease their pain. As Philippe Gilbert outlined during the week, the need for spectacle at the cost of what is realistic and achievable for riders is something that needs greater consideration from race organisers.
Debate over whether cobbles belong in Grand Tours or not will rage on, but in the meantime, riders and fans eagerly await the October 23 unveiling.
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