The cobbles are as much part of the Tour as the Tourmalet or Alpe d'Huez says route organiser PeschePICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Erstwhile maillot jaune Thor Hushovd labelled yesterday cobbles "stupid," Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel have suggested that today's team time trial stage and its complex new rules be abandoned - you could say that it's not been a great 48 hours for Jean-Franois Pescheux, the Tour's director of competitions. So why are the cobbles "stupid"? Aren't they just as much a part of the Tour as the Galibier, the Tourmalet or Alpe d'Huez? And isn't the Tour's team time trial stage one of the most exciting days of the year? After all, it's all bike racing. requiring skill, agility and strength. But here's what Pescheux himself had to say: "The two sectors of cobbles we used are departmental roads, working roads," Pescheux said, "and typical of the north of France. We decided to introduce them into the route, they are in good condition, and of course are a part of Paris-Roubaix. But the Tour de France goes all over France - we don't deliberately avoid anywhere. "Some of them won't like the pav and some of them won't like climbing the cols," he said. "Tom Boonen is very happy to see pav on the route, less happy with a time trial on Alpe d'Huez. We can't take out the Alps and the Pyrenees to favour a Classics rider, but the Tour is a big Classic every day so the winner of the Tour needs to be capable of dealing with all terrains. But everybody's exaggerating - this is the easiest sector of pav in Paris-Roubaix." And what about the decision to effectively fix the possible time gaps in the team time trial? "We preferred to limit the biggest time loss to three minutes. That also ensures that all the leaders will be involved in the climactic moments of the Tour in the mountains," he said. Pescheux, faced with the prospect of Iban Mayo of Euskaltel a probable seven minutes adrift even before the end of the Tour's first week, argued that it was impossible to please all of the teams. "There are teams with rouleurs who are suited to the team time trial and others that it doesn't appeal to as much. No regulation is perfect for everybody," he said. "Some are advantaged, others perhaps disadvantaged. But the directeur sportifs have known about this for a year." And ASO's burly race director insisted, contrary to Armstrong's belief, that those teams lagging behind at the time checks, would not relax, sit up and take it easy, saving their strength for another day. "In a team time trial I can't imagine that a team would purposely lose time," he said. "The ethics of sport have to be respected. Anyway, that theory doesn't work because the first team to leave (Euskaltel - Ed) does not know the fastest time, so that team will have to ride as hard as they can to avoid humiliation or even elimination of riders."