The Tour de France is held one week later than usual this year to reduce the clash with the FIFA World Cup, but that second Sunday coincides with the final, and it's a day for sports fans to stay tuned in front of the TV.
Stage 9 is set to finish early, around 4 p.m. local time, before the match starts, but it's not one of those moments in the Tour for reporters to interview cyclists about their football preference.
It's the most feared stage for the GC contenders. This time around, there aren't just a few cobblestones to animate the race, but 22 kilometres of the pavés of Paris-Roubaix divided in 15 sectors from km 47.5 to 8km to go, the finish being located on the avenue Maxence Van der Meersch near the legendary velodrome on its indoor version "Le Stab" (in memory of the 1962 world champion Jean Stablinski who was also the first rider to test positive at the Tour de France fifty years ago).
Camphin-en-Pévèle, a hotspot of Paris-Roubaix, is only 17km before the end in Roubaix. The Tour de France can be won or lost before the mountains this year.
Matt White says: You’ve almost got two races here. The race for the stage win and then the second race to protect GC riders. When you look at the start list there’s not too many Roubaix specialists on the start line, and then a lot of those specialists have GC riders on their teams. We’ve looked at the stage and it’s filthy. It’s absolutely filthy. They’ve taken out a couple of the really tough Roubaix sectors but there are still a couple that are in really bad condition. It’s also such a shock to ride cobbles for a lot of the TDF peloton. When you race there in April the whole bunch can handle this very special style of racing, but at the Tour you’ve probably got about ten specialists, 30-40 guys, who are very capable and then the rest of the guys are just surviving. The approach to the first cobble section is downhill, on 3-4 lane with nearly a 90-degree left-hand corner into one lane. There’s no way that the peloton are going to pass through there without a incident. It’s going to be crazy. Then the first two sections on the cobbles are really tough. There are some easier sections later on but by that point the bunch will be so dwindled that it will be tough to come back. This is could be way more devastating than any mountain stage. I think that it’s the most crucial stage of the Tour, not where the tour is won but where it is lost.
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