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Return to Roubaix: Stage 9 of the 2018 Tour de France to take on 15 cobbled secteurs

Jack Elton-Walters
15 Jul 2018

Preview of Stage 9 of the 2018 Tour de France, which will take the riders over 15 cobbled secteurs covering 21.7km of the 154km stage

Tour de France 2018: John Degenkolb wins Stage 9 on the cobbles of Roubaix

The Tour de France 2018 is now in full swing with thrills and spills from day one. Some riders have already lost as a result of ill fortune, while others' chances have suffered as a result of being a strong rider on a weak squad during Stage 3's team time trial.

Out of the remaining stages, three in particular stand out. Stage 10 takes the riders onto the gravel roads of the Plateau des Glières, while Stage 17 covers just 65km in total and finishes on a summit above Saint-lary-Soulan.

However, the day we're getting most excited about in the Cyclist office is Stage 9 on Sunday 15th July - that's this weekend. The 154km stage will run from Arras to Roubaix and will include 15 cobbled secteurs.

The total distance on pave is set to be 21.7km, a thrilling prospect for Classics fans.

Some of the secteurs set to be used in 2018 will be familiar from Paris-Roubaix, while others are less commonly used due to their location away from the usual route of the Monument Classic.

The cobbled sections on offer range in length from 500 metres to a huge 2.4km. The final secteur from Willems to Hem is also the last major length of pave used in Paris-Roubaix.

The sides of the road are gravel and tarmac, the usual way taken by riders, but at this year's race the organisers had inserted road blocks to encourage the riders back onto what is a gruelling 1.4km of rutted cobblestones.

With any luck, all 15 of the cobbled roads will be barried to force the riders out of the gutter, otherwise these roads might as well not have been included at all.

This far out it's hard to say who might come off better from this stage in terms of the win on the day and the effect on the overall.

Chris Froome was previously chided for his poor bike handling, but he's proved those critics wrong in recent years with control on cobbles and the use of strange descending techniques.

He'll most likely sit behind teammates such as Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe and be guided safely across the cobbles rather than attack this early in the race.

Classics specialists like Peter Sagan, Greg van Avermaet and John Degenkolb - the latter two of whom have won Paris-Roubaix - will be marked men as they seek an early stage win on a mountainous Grand Tour that might have little else to offer them.

Tour de France 2018: John Degenkolb wins Stage 9 on the cobbles of Roubaix

Previous visits to the pave

The Tour de France has ventured onto the cobbles a number of times in recent years with varying levels of impact on the overall race.

When the cobbles of Northern France were included on Stage 4 of the 2015 Tour de France, the day actually made little difference to the race overall despite the yellow jersey changing hands.

Tony Martin took the win and relieved Froome temporarily of the overall race lead, but the latter went on to take the win in Paris by 1:12 over nearest rival Nairo Quintana.

It was the year before that the pave proved more decisive. Stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France started in Ieper, Belgium before heading into France.

After entering the race's homeland for the first time that year, after the Grand Depart in Yorkshire, the stage took on seven of Paris-Roubaix's cobbled secteurs.

The day was marked by heavy rain and defending champion Froome slid out on a corner and ended his race with a broken wrist before the peloton had even reached the cobbles.

Eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali, already in the yellow jersey, dominated his remaining GC rivals and put 2:35 into Alberto Contador while also finishing ahead of many top Classics specialists. The day's stage went to Lars Boom.

Contador later crashed out on Stage 10 and Nibali took the yellow all the way to Paris, finishing with an advantage of 7:37.