Cobbled 'carnage' on Tuesday?
Saturday, July 3, 2004 11.00pm
Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt believes the cobbled roads on Tuesday's stage could reap "car
Speaking to procycling as he prepared to launch his Tour bid in Lige yesterday, pav maestro Backstedt was already relishing a stage which many others will dread. Wednesday's itinerary features two cobbled sections borrowed from Backstedt's favourite Paris-Roubaix route: the 2,800m stretch beginning in Erre, 146km into the 202km stage, and the last 1,100 metres of the legendary Carrefour de l'Arbre, 61.5km from the finish in Wasquehal. "What's more," Backstedt told procycling with a devilish grin, "the cobbles on those sections are some of the worst. They are rutted and broken and the roads are extremely narrow. If it's wet and windy, too, it doesn't bear thinking about. There could be riders bouncing around all over the place, especially the climbers. It isn't just question of being light and that penalising them: on the pav you need the experience which only comes with practice. "Lance [Armstrong] should be OK, because he's ridden the Tour of Flanders several times and always coped well on the cobbles. Ullrich shouldn't come unstuck, either. It's the climbers, especially the Spaniards, who might struggle. I can imagine a scene like you see on the way into the Arenberg Forest at Paris-Roubaix: everyone fighting to be at the front, the bunch strung out, and then perhaps splitting. I can foresee Lance sending his boys to the front to put the hammer down. Then you'll have specialists like me at the front, too. Personally I would prefer the cobbles to be closer to the finish, but, as it is, anyone who gets dropped or falls could get back. But that's assuming that there's no wind.. It could truly be carnage," Backstedt concluded. Another member of the Alessio-Bianchi team for whom the cobbles will be a welcome diversion is Scott Sunderland. The Australian, who can boast over a decade of Paris-Roubaix experience, agrees with Backstedt. "You'll have three groups of riders fighting to be at the front: the sprinters' teams, the general classification riders and the specialists like Magnus and I," the veteran Aussie told procycling on Sunday. "If it's raining and windy anything could happen. it could be an epic. US Postal on the front? Them and everyone else: Rabobank, T-Mobile, a couple of Italian teams, Quick Step, Crdit Agricole - basically any team who can drive a bunch. "The worst case scenario for someone like Iban Mayo is a positioning error, which in turn could cause a puncture or a crash. Those roads are so narrow that the service car could take ages to arrive. Then he'd have to organise a chase with his team-mates, who will always struggle on the flat against a bunch driven by a team like Rabobank or Quick Step."
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