They’ve battled crosswinds, they’ve attacked the Mur – today the riders gird their loins for a rumble across Roubaix cobbles. #StayAlert!
Tuesday 7th July: Stage 4 – Seraing to Cambrai, cobbles, 223.5km
The organisers have put together one of the most exciting first weeks in memory and this stage is set to be a highlight, just like last year. They might only amount to a total of 13km out of a 223km stage, but the Roubaix cobbles could have a devastating impact on the GC. These seven sets, six of which are in the last 50km of the stage, mean that the Big Four™ will need to make sure they can hitch their wheels on to some of the classics stars in the peloton – whether they’re on their own team or not!
Of the four, Chris Froome looks to have the strongest team for this type of stage with Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe, Alberto Contador has Peter Sagan, Vincenzo Nibali can handle himself very well on the cobbles, thank you very much and, of the four, Nairo Quintana was the only one to race the cobbles in the spring (okay, more Flanders pavé than Roubaix, but you know …). That said, any one of them could try to get on the wheel of this year’s Roubaix champ John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) or a resurgent Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) and get the ride of their life. But not, alas, Trek’s Fabian Cancellara – the three-time Paris-Roubaix winner has withdrawn with two fractured vertebrae sustained in his crash yesterday.
Other danger spots are the two level crossings in the first half of the stage. Let’s hope that no one gets caught out – or plays chicken with a high-speed train, like in this year’s Roubaix. [Apparently they are going to be policed to prevent any repeat stupidity from occurring – Ed.] The final kilometre has two 90-degree left hand turns, one right after the other, that after a long and bone-shaking day might require some concentration. Expect some time gaps. Expect some crashes. Expect lots of dust. And, oh, if it’s raining? Expect all bets to be on Nibali.
Link: Official race website
Header image: Paris-Roubaix cobbles, via Wikipedia