I've already screamed about this stage, like five different times. [I'm particularly proud of this headline.] So one last time, I'll paste in the details. The bouncy part:
And the data, from last week:
- Gruson, 1100m, ** -- Not related to the Carrefour de l'Arbe secteur just around the corner. This is for warmup purposes only.
- Ennevelin - Pont Thibault, 1400m, *** -- Meaty cobbles, especially treacherous in wet conditions.
30001000m, ***** -- One of the three hardest secteurs in all of l'Enfer du Nord. It took a lot of guts for Le Tour to even include this. Several hours of DS sleep have already been lost as a result.
- Bersee, 1200, ** -- Nothing terribly notable here.
- Orchies - Beuvry-le-Forêt, 1400m, *** -- Named the Secteur Marc Madiot, for the man who will be screaming out of the FDJ car. The cobbles are half newly renovated, half old madness, not unlike Marc Madiot.
- Sars-et-Rosières - Tilloy-les-Marchiennes -- 2400m, *** -- No matter what shape they're in, that's a long haul.
- Brillon - Warlaing, 2400m, *** -- Newly refurbished, which means they aren't scheduled to wash out into chaos for another six months.
- Wandignies - Hornaing, 3700m, *** -- Nasty in stretches, though mostly renovated. After nearly 4km, does it even matter?
- Hélesmes - Wallers, 1600m, **** -- ASO's final f-you to anyone in the general classification who didn't come to this race ready to battle on the cobbles. The peloton will long since have been shattered; this is merely where the stage winner emerges.
So you've seen all that. Now, who do we like to actually win?
The usual suspects
Fabian Cancellara is here, and he'd like you to know that, in case you hadn't already suspected that on stage 1. Cobbles guys are just as attached to Tour stages as anyone else, possibly more so, since they have so few realistic chances. So here you go.
- Cancellara: previous winner of the last 30 editions of Paris-Roubaix.
- Niki Terpstra: Oh, except the last one, Terpstra won that.
- Geraint Thomas: Stud. But might be busy.
- Luca Paolini: Don't be fooled by the clown nose. He's a hammerhead.
- Daniele Bennati: once-proud sprinter, still a hard man.
- Lars and Sep: Something good has to happen to Belkin, right?
- Sebastian Langeveld: Same as Thomas.
- Jon Degenkolb: Kittel's cobbles standby.
- Jurgen Roelands: Holy crap!
- Greg Van Avermaet: Double crap!!
- Jens Keukeleire: Oh, right. Hey, you never know.
- Sylvain Chavanel: Triple crap!!
- Non-hopeless sprinters: Sagan, Coquard, Kristoff
Pick anyone from that group and you can make a case. I suspect the race isn't hard enough for Cancellara to just destroy everyone, but the last secteur probably is. He's your conventional favorite, but as usual if everyone gangs up on him, then anything can happen.
The Other Action
Stage glory is probably the subtext for this stage, because the real significance will be the test of the GC contenders. You can pretty much guarantee that a couple of them will have trouble. Hopefully not of the crashing variety, but if the weather is bad, then there's that too. More like the falling back variety, where it's just really damn difficult to hold wheels on this stuff. The smart teams -- or at least the ones with enough resources -- have a cobbles ace to pace their main guy to safety. Cancellara got Andy Schleck across the stones safely in 2010 (though IIRC Frank Schlecked himself out of the Tour). Contador had no trouble. I bet Nibali, a fine all-rounder, will emerge OK. Talansky and Froome have cobbles guys to help them, clearly having gotten the memo four years ago. Mollema too. Valverde rode them himself in the spring, and really, is there anything he can't manage? So... it's not clear who's most endangered on the stones among the GC guys. I guess we'll just have to watch the stage to find out.
AmyBC's Wine Pick
Stage 5 wine Note: between this wine and the Cav tribute wine earlier, I'm feeling a little like I am dooming the riders with my choices. I couldn't resist. For today's cobbled stage, I have a wine from Luxembourg. Feel free to insert your own Schleck joke here.
Clos de Rochers Auxerrois: Very pale white, muted nose, has some richness. Floral notes, along with some fruit. Not going to be the wine of the Tour, but pleasant and drinkable.