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How are the Tour de France riders preparing for the cobbles?

Joe Robinson
22 Mar 2018

The overall favourites for yellow have been preparing for the cobbles of Stage 9 in different ways

With Stage 9 of this year's Tour de France tackling 15 of the dreaded cobblestone roads from Paris-Roubaix, the pre-race favourites have been taking to the roads of northern France and Belgium in preparation.

Chief among the favourites is defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky). While he is unlikely to line up at any of the Spring Classics, the four-time Tour champion has been spotted riding the cobbles of Roubaix.

Froome was joined by Spanish teammate Jonathan Castroviejo and former Paris-Roubaix top 10 finisher Geraint Thomas to perform vital reconnaissance of the pave. Froome has also previously ridden the cobbles the last time they made an appearance in the Tour in 2015.

The cobbles cannot be that hard. Froome managed them while filming himself on Instagram

Former teammate turned rival Mikel Landa (Movistar) will be using Friday's E3-Harelbeke to hone his ability on the stones. This will be the Spaniard's first experience at a one-day cobbled Spring Classic and could prove a baptism of fire for the lightweight climber. 

Taking a different approach, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) has confirmed that he will ride the Tour of Flanders for the first time in his career. The recent Milan-San Remo champion will take to the Monument to simply 'to see what it's about.' 

Nibali is probably the most well-versed of the big General Classification favourites in regards to the Roubaix cobbles. En route to yellow in 2014, the Sicilian put in a barnstorming performance on wet pave taking third on Stage 5 to Porte du Hainaut. 

While the Italian may seem nonchalant in his approach to Flanders, it will undoubtedly prove great practice for the cobbles present in this year's Tour.

France's hopes for home victory lay heavily on the shoulders of Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and this expectation is something he has not been taking lightly. 

Having already finished second at the gravelled Strade Bianche earlier this month, the Frenchman is also scheduled to ride Dwars door Vlaanderen next Wednesday. 

Beyond actual racing, Bardet has been spotted on the pave of Roubaix on multiple occasions proving that the 27-year-old is supremely focused on Tour success this season. 

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was not expected to tackle any of the northern European cobbles however he will be present at Dwars door Vlaanderen alongside teammate Alejandro Valverde. The Colombian has made a very low-key start to the 2018 season having only raced once on European soil, at the ongoing Volta a Catalunya.

While Quintana may just use Dwars door Vlaanderen as preperation, do not be surprised if teammate Valverde ends up battling for the victory. 

Of those considered hot favourites for this year's Tour, the only rider that looks to be steering clear of the cobbles is Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).

The 2017 Giro d'Italia champion is currently gearing up for completing a Giro-Tour yet is not expected to race in any of the cobbles races throughout March and April.

According to his race programme, the next time we will see Dumoulin pin on a race number will be at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

The mammoth task of a Giro-Tour double may explain his light race schedule, however it may seem a little ill-advised for the 27-year-old to avoid racing on the cobbles while his biggest rivals get in much-needed practice.