2010 Tour de France Can be Lost on Stage 3 Cobblestones
Bjarne Riis: "It's going to be dangerous, it's going to be risky."
While the Tour de France 2010 will probably be won on the gruelling third week Tourmalet climb, it could equally be lost on the cobblestones during Tuesday's third stage.
"It's going to be dangerous, it's going to be risky. As has been said before, you're not going to win the Tour on the cobbles but you can easily lose it," said Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis.
The Dane should know as his team contains two former Paris-Roubaix winners in Australian Stuart O'Grady and Swiss Fabian Cancellara.
O'Grady was added to the team to assist Saxo Bank leaders Andy and Frank Schleck of Luxembourg on the seven cobbled sectors placed in the last third of the 213 kms stage.
Most of the favourites checked the stage finish several times, especially those like defending champion Alberto Contador who are not familiar with one-day classics held on cobbles in Roubaix or on the Tour of Flanders.
Contador trained on the course with former Roubaix winner Peter van Petegem of Belgium, who said he was impressed by the Spaniard's agility.
"If all hell breaks loose, some riders are going to lose a lot of time," said Riis.
FDJ team director Marc Madiot, who won Paris-Roubaix twice, said his main concern was the inexperience of most of the Tour riders.
"The main problem is that two thirds of the peloton never rode the Tour of Flanders or Paris Roubaix and there's going to be a lot of stress," he said.
The Frenchman also predicted a tense and ruthless battle to reach the cobbled sectors in the best position.
"The most important sectors will be the ones before the cobbles. That's when you really need to avoid crashes, check the roundabouts and the turns to avoid losing ground before the cobbles or you'll never make it back," he said.
While riders openly admit they are anxious ahead of the challenge, the stage should provide a great show for fans and television viewers.
"It will be great fun to watch, fun for television, but it won't be fun on the road," said Riis.
"I believe the cobbles really have their place on the Tour. It should be an exciting race and if you want a quiet race, you'd better stay at home in your sofa," added Madiot.
Others are less convinced that the cobbles are necessary.
"I'd rather have had a team time trial than cobbles," said Lance Armstrong's team director Johan Bruyneel.
"It's risky and there's a chance you can lose a Tour contender in the first week. Yet one thing is for sure, Lance normally tackles the cobbles better than Contador."
Rain would make the stage even more dangerous but the forecast is for cloudy, dry conditions.
"That would drastically change the race. I hope it's sunny", Armstrong said.
The whole team here at Roadcycling.com are looking forward to seeing the real men unfold their potential in tomorrow's stage 3 of the 2010 Tour de France. Who will be men and who will be mice? Stay tuned to Roadcycling.com to find out!