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How the Roubaix stage affected Tour team rosters

By Gregor Brown • Updated
Vincenzo Nibali had an incredible day on the cobbles in the 2014 Tour de France. Riding like a classics specialist, Nibali dropped Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan in the final sectors. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

SARZEAU, France (VN) — The Tour de France‘s Roubaix stage is on everyone’s mind, but teams say they based their rosters on more than just that one cobbled day coming up Sunday.

The 2018 Tour covers 21.7 kilometers of cobbles in stage 9 from Arras to Roubaix, the town that hosts the famous cobbled monument every April.

“The team time trial had more influence on selection than the Roubaix stage,” BMC Racing general manager Jim Ochowicz said.

“The team time trial is more of a specialty. The Roubaix stage will not be 180 guys going for it. In April, all of them are going for it. On Sunday, it’s different, you have to finish the stage, you can’t just go fast and pull over and go home, you have to go fast just to stay in the race.

“The strategy is going to be different, a certain part of it is just survival, instead of trying to win the stage.”

BMC’s Richie Porte will be helped by Greg Van Avermaet, the Belgian winner of the 2017 Paris-Roubaix. Ochowicz said that Van Avermaet, who wears yellow jersey after the team won the time trial, was going to be in the Tour eight-man roster regardless. “These are guys who did well in the team time trial and they will pull on the flats anyway.”

“The Roubaix stage has a factor, but I suppose the first nine days is a compilation of what we are looking for in our team selection,” said Matt White, director of team Mitchelton-Scott with Adam Yates.

“Our big guys are team time trial guys, and they are good at handing Roubaix’s cobbles. But having the likes of Mat Hayman, the 2016 winner, on board will certainly be a big asset for Adam on that day.

“You can’t pick a team of eight for one day, if you have a rider who’s very one-dimensional it wouldn’t be worth it. But Mat’s talents throughout the first nine days captaining the team have a big effect.”

Chris Froome (Sky) finished alongside the other GC contenders when cobbles last featured in the Tour de France in 2015. Photo: ©Tim De Waele | Getty Images

Hayman, Van Avermaet, Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors), John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) are the five former Paris-Roubaix who are racing the 2018 Tour. Terpstra must look after the team’s classification leader Bob Jungels.

“Terpstra is not here for stage 9. Of course, he is riding it, but he is riding it for Bob,” Quick Step Floors sport director, Brian Holm said.

“Bob can also handle himself. We have a good team for it. Riding in team Quick-Step means you probably have good skills on a bike. To be a climber, you have to be a nerd riding to watts, but to ride here you have to be sort of an artist with good bike skills.”

“Not just the Roubaix stage, but in general, the first nine stages can affect the team selection,” explained Luke Roberts, sports director of Sunweb with leader Tom Dumoulin.

“We selected a strong team of classics-style riders and TT riders, the basis of our team is around the first nine days. We have strong riders, rouleurs, and experienced classics riders to help guide Tom.”

Team Sky with four-time winner Chris Froome has the advantage that its climbers manage cobbles well — and even excel on them.

“Our men like Geraint, Kwiatkowski, and Gianni Moscon,” sport director Nicolas Portal said. “Froomey actually likes the cobbles. They will be good points for the team. We have a good team.

“In general, you need to take the Roubaix stage in account with the team time trial stage. Most of the men who are good in the team time trial are good in the cobbles too. We also had men like Ian Stannard, Christian Knees who we could have put in our eight-man roster.”

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