Tuesday’s cobblestone showdown is expected to deflate the chances of more than a few GC contenders, heightening nerves and expectations among riders and fans alike.
Rolf Aldag, sport director at HTC-Columbia, however, questioned the logic of having the cobblestones so early in the Tour de France.
“I cannot understand, why, as an organizer, to cut down the number of favorites in the first three days? Now, the race is open, it’s super exciting, there are a lot of favorites, but there will be riders who lose four minutes, and if you lose four minutes, their Tour is over,” Aldag told VeloNews. “There could be only four riders left after Tuesday with chances to win the Tour. Is that interesting for the race?”
If heavy crashes in Sunday and Monday’s stages are any indication, Tuesday’s 213km run from Wanze to Arenberg should see even more spills and thrills. That might be great for the spectacle, but it will all but torpedo GC chances for some unlucky contenders.
“OK, a Tour champion should be able to handle the cobblestones. I agree with that, but not in the first three days,” Aldag said. “You can easily put cobblestones on the other end of the race, when the peloton is 160 riders, not nearly 200, when the GC is more settled. There would still be a great spectacle.”
Aldag said the team will want to get GC man Michael Rogers as well as green jersey hope Mark Cavendish safely through the seven sectors of cobblestones featured Tuesday.
“The sprinters will have a good chance to challenge for the stage. I am optimistic for the cobbles. In training, the team went over the cobbles very fast, and Mark was there. He can be at the front on the cobbles Tuesday. It’s just so tricky, anything can happen on those cobbles,” Aldag said. “What we don’t want to happen is not have Mark there and have Thor (Hushovd) pick up more points. We could be 60 points behind Thor by the third stage. If Mark gets over the cobbles, he’ll still have a chance to pick up some points.”
Aldag said Sunday’s crash will have big implications in the battle for the green jersey. Cavendish went wide through a corner with 2.2km to go and crashed, finishing outside of the points. Arch-rival Hushovd avoided three late-stage crashes and darted to third to snag important points.
Aldag said Cavendish crashed because he clipped wheels with HTC-Columbia teammate Bernard Eisel.
“Mark was off his line. It looked really strange on TV, but he touched Eisel’s back wheel. When they got to the right turn, it made Mark come out of balance. He comes off the back wheel and goes straight on, takes the other guy with him. The other guy was cornering and hit Mark back’s wheel,” Aldag said. “It put him off-balance and instead of doing that turn, he went straight into the fences.”