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A windless start to the Tour de France removed the jeopardy for the GC riders in the peloton. But regardless of the weather, the cobbles of Roubaix are always there.
Stage 5 will take in 17 kilometres of pave over 11 sectors, with four of the last five having featured in this spring’s edition of Paris-Roubaix.
But how will the Tour’s battle on the cobbles differ from the Hell of the North in the spring?
“Two things, the team tactics and the field,” Bike-Exchange Jayco’s sports director Mat Hayman tells CyclingTips, a good person to talk to since the Aussie won Paris-Roubaix as recently as 2016.
“You go in there with GC riders, or teams and riders hunting for the stage win. Most of the GC riders want to just get through it and a few want to take advantage of it. That’s a big difference. When it’s a one-day race the whole field’s ready to race Roubaix. They’re not there for any other reason that day and there are no limit losses, and once you’re done, you’re done. It’s quite a different race actually.”
DSM’s John Degenkolb has won both Paris-Roubaix and the last Roubaix stage to feature at the Tour de France in 2018, and he agrees with Hayman.
“It’s completely different racing,” he says. “In the Tour there are different riders than in the Classics and the tactics play a really important role. You have to be really far up in front all day and start from kilometre zero. On every corner there is a lot of stress. From the first kilometre on. It’s very crazy. It will be a very special day.”
“We’ve had these stages in the past,” adds EF Education-EasyPost sports director Andreas Klier. “They’ve always been interesting, they’ve always brought up a great and a valid winner. I’ll say I hope the winner for tomorrow is one of the big ones, a great cyclist, and I really hope for all the GC riders are not going to have bad luck.”
And how much tougher is it for the skinny guys who are usually nowhere to be seen on the cobbles in the spring?
“A lot of guys they actually really like it but some guys don’t like it so much,” Degenkolb says. “Everyone has to find the best way to ride the cobbles.”
While the GC teams and riders will be feeling the pressure, there is one man who considers it a walk in the park compared to the original Monumental version.
“It’s way easier,” Alexander Kristoff says. “It’s way shorter.”
And we are certainly not going to disagree with the Stavanger Stallion. Whether it kicks off from kilometre zero or proves to be a much easier day than the real Paris-Roubaix, it’s sure to be a spectacle.