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Cobblestone chaos: The Tour peloton reacts to stage 5 crashes

On a wet and wild day that saw countless riders crash, everyone had an opinion on whether or not cobblestones belong at the Tour de France

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On a wet and wild day that saw countless riders crash, classics riders struggling, and the defending champion drop out of the race, seemingly everyone had a story, and an opinion, on whether or not cobblestones belong at the Tour de France.

A smattering of post-race quotes, and tweets, are presented here.

The stage winner

Lars Boom (Belkin): “Winning a Tour de France stage is like a dream come true. It’s extra special to win in rainy conditions and on cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix. I’ve been dreaming of a wet Paris-Roubaix for years and now this happens at the Tour. Simply fantastic… Sep Vanmarcke and I started the stage with the idea to win. It’s very special to be the first Dutch stage winner in Tour de France since Pieter Weening exactly nine years ago. I’m lost for words. I was crying on the bike already and had goose bumps everywhere… I knew I had to do it there as I’m strong on the cobbles and I wanted to be sure that I was going to win. I thought Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan would catch up with me in the final, but they didn’t. When I got out of the final corner, I knew I was going to win. That was so nice.”

The GC contenders

Race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana): “It’s been an unbelievable day. I took quite a lot of risks. There were only three occasions where I nearly fell. Thanks to some luck and experience, everything went well in the end. Our tactics were spot-on today, sending Westra into the break.”

Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp): “Could not have asked for a more dedicated and incredible group of guys to get me through today. Unscathed, safe, feeling great. It was an epic day to be a part of, it was a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): “A very difficult day, in which I lost much time. Nibali has been in the exact point on the second section, where everything was broken. We have simply saved the day without falling, which is perhaps the most important. My terrain is still to come… With so much mud, my small sprockets [were blocked], and I could not keep up … Today was a day of survival … Now the real Tour begins … It is a nice show for television, but it has a pretty big risk … I’m sorry for Froome and for the race, because it would have been a great spectacle in the mountains.”

Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing): “You guys got your drama, but that takes the race down a notch when you got your top favorite [Froome] out. In theory, it could make the race less exciting toward the end. I think ASO need to rethink having days like this in the race. For me, It could have been worse, it could have been better. We will just have to move forward.”

Chris Froome (Sky): “I’m devastated to have to pull out of the race. It was the right thing to do after crashing again and I knew that I couldn’t carry on. I’m going to fly home tonight and over the next few days I’ll go for some more scans on my wrist to find out exactly what injuries I’ve sustained. The X-ray last night didn’t show an obvious fracture and I wanted to race today, but clearly I was in pain and we put heavy strapping on the left wrist from the start. It’s too early to say for definite when I’ll be back on the bike, I’m just going to concentrate on getting back to full fitness.”

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “After all bad luck that we had, we could get through the day well. When I crashed I was perfectly positioned, within the first ten of the bunch, but some rider hit me from the left side, broke my gearing and made me hit the tarmac; it was quite a blow. I spent some seconds on the ground hurting, but Rojas came fast to give me his bike and all the team was sensational, always by my side. I had to do the final 60 kilometers, with all cobblestones on the route, with a seatpost 2.5cm shorter than mine, but it was really impossible to switch bikes before the finish, because it was ‘full gas.’… We must stay happy, because even though we lost quite a bit of time against Nibali, we didn’t concede much to others, and even won some seconds to riders like Alberto… It’s obvious that Nibali is proving to be strong, as well as Fuglsang and all his team, but this has just started and there’s all to play for in this Tour. Anything can happen. On the other hand, I wasn’t aware of what happened to Froome. I did see Zandio crashed, but not him. I was so focused on my racing that I couldn’t realize about anything happening around. I want to thank the team again because they were brilliant today. Before the crash, we were in perfect position, and they took their hearts out for me afterwards. We will see how my body responds tomorrow.”

Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol): “I crashed one time when Talansky slipped in front of me. I couldn’t avoid it … Jürgen Roelandts and Tony Gallopin were a big help today. They took me in their wheel in the final.”

Bauke Mollema (Belkin): “What an epic stage. I was completely empty in the final. Without my team-mates, I wouldn’t have survived today.”

Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step): “”I crashed with Vasil Kiryienka in the roundabout before the first cobbled sector. We were chasing for maybe 20 kilometers. We caught the group on the intermediate sprint. We went really at the limit trying to come back because it was crosswind and the front of the group was really going full gas. The sector number eight, we went back to the front and I stayed there all day. After that we had five guys. We had Tony in the breakaway and me, Baki, Renshaw, and Matteo in the first group. So, we were calm and waiting for the hardest moments. On the second-to-last cobbled sector not many guys were in the front. I was feeling super good. I was much more relaxed on the cobbles than ever before. On the cobbles of the second-to-last sector however I had a flat tire on the front at about 700 meters from the end of the sector. I was sliding left to right, but knew there would be mechanics at the end of the sector. So I tried to get there and I then swapped my wheel. Renshaw was trying to help me and Matteo, until the end of the stage, we tried to chase the group in front of us. But it was really hard to close the gap even when I was doing my best. What can I say, we had bad luck. With a bit of good luck who knows what could have happened with how good I felt. But many guys in the peloton had bad luck today, and to be in the group with Nibali in yellow like that is encouraging.”

The classics specialists

Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), winner of 8 stages in the Tour, three-time winner of Paris-Roubaix: “The race was a mess. When I hear in the radio what was happening just with our riders, I can imagine what must be happening with the others – in my opinion this does not have a place in a Grand Tour. It was completely different than in April because the field is so different. Also the wet roads made it very dangerous – the whole course was now dangerous… Rasty [Gregory Rast] helped me a lot. The problem was there was always a gap because someone was tired, or slipped a bit, and you could not pass him on the cobbles. When the three Astanas and Boom went, this is what happened. Also, on wet cobbles it is very different, you cannot use a high cadence like when it’s dry, how I like to do… It was already a situation where I was pulling, and when they went everyone was looking at me and Peter [Sagan] to do the work. Just me and Peter could not make the difference, so I had to calculate my energy. I did not want to pull, pull, pull and then the others pass me at the end, so I had to manage myself and play a bit or otherwise I would have been even more behind. Hey, chapeau to Astana who did a fantastic ride – they honored the yellow jersey.”

Peter Sagan (Cannondale): “Today it’s a bittersweet result for me. I’m happy because I finished in the front, I didn’t crash in a hellish stage, and I took other points for the green jersey. On the other side, I’m disappointed because I could be with Boom, Nibali, and Fuglsang but before the second-to-last cobbled sector I was not in the front and I lost the chance to go with them. We tried to close the gap but it was too late. Anyway, I would like to look ahead and think positively for other chances.”

Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin): “It’s just great that Lars managed to win today. Lars and I were both very strong. On the fourth sector, I wanted to attack. I had planned that in advance, but unfortunately I punctured. My race was over after that and of course I was very disappointed, but when I heard that Lars was going to win, I was still able to enjoy the moment.”

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing): “I crashed just before the first cobblestone section. I made it back before the second one but I was too far behind in the peloton. With this rain, you can never move up on the cobblestones. So my race was already over then and I took it easy to the finish.”

Geraint Thomas (Sky): “To hear Froomey crashed early on, it was ‘not again’ sort of thing. I think he was just behind me when he crashed again and when I heard it I thought ‘that sounds nasty’ and then I heard on the radio it was Froome so it wasn’t good. But we knew going into today we had Richie as well and it was a kind of a two-pronged attack. They were both on an equal footing in the team so it changed then for Richie and so I think it was a pretty successful day really when you look at that.”

Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge): “This didn’t feel like the Tour de France. It felt like cyclocross today with the mud and the wet cobblestone sections. I always said I wanted to do Paris-Roubaix in the wet to have that experience, yes it’s 100km less and less cobblestone sections, but I think it came pretty close. I tried to stay as good as possible at the front. In the last couple of cobblestone sections the difference was made, especially by Astana, who were riding pretty impressively for Nibali. On the second last cobblestone section there was a small gap and it was only Lars Boom who could close it. I tried, I came close, but I just couldn’t make it and went through to the finish with Sagan and (Fabian) Cancellara.”

Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp): “It was just probably as bad as it gets, right? I ride Roubaix every year but I’ve never actually ridden it in the rain, and I’ve always heard how treacherous it can be in the wet, and I got to see that first hand today. There’s just nowhere to go on the stones apart from hold your line, ride the crown of the road and just don’t use your brakes.”

Those who weren’t racing

Bradley Wiggins (Sky): “It’s a tough day. I never like to see a great racer go down but Chris will be back. Today has showed how hard it is to win the Tour de France, but the team will have prepared for this and they’ll deal with it.”

Dave Brailsford (Sky team manager): “It was exciting, you’ve got to say that. It might not have worked out for us but if you’re a bike fan and watched the way that Nibali rode today, that was pretty impressive… We’re very happy to have Richie up there in GC and the fight in the mountains lies ahead, and we want to get to those mountains as soon as possible. It’s not to be (Froome’s) year but in Richie Porte we’ve got a very capable guy who will now lead the team. I think like anything else, on a day like today when you have a setback, you’ve got to roll with it. It’s part of sport, you’ve got to recalibrate your goals and go again. You might take a punch but you get up and go again. In Richie Porte he’s come into this team, we’ve selected him to be the number two, he had great ability today and great courage with Geraint to ride the cobbles the way he did and given the way it’s timed at the minute, we’ve got an exciting couple of weeks to come.”

Robbie Hunter (Garmin-Sharp director): “I think there will be a lot of people complaining tonight, saying that stages like this shouldn’t be in the Tour. It worked out in our favor today … The biggest surprise was how good Astana was, having so many guys up front on the cobbles.”

Max Sciandri (BMC Racing director)“Today could have been a day when we could have either been right on the top or right on the bottom. I would say we were somewhere in between the middle – maybe a little better than the middle. If we look at the GC right now, we are good.”

Steven De Jongh (Tinkoff-Saxo director): “Well, we lost about two and a half minutes to a very strong riding Nibali but we’re still confident. Alberto lost touch with the back wheel of Vincenzo and we simply couldn’t close the gap. Fortunately, Alberto didn’t crash at any point and he didn’t have any punctures and not having any crashes is very important concerning the rest of the race. We’re five days into the race. Alberto is in peak shape and better than he was in Dauphine and we’re going to do some hard mountain stages. So, we’re still absolutely confident but aware that there’s some hard work to be done in order to make it back to the top of the rankings.”

Robbie McEwen (three-time green jersey winner, 12-time Tour stage winner): “Sux 4 some riders but whatever the consequences of today’s #TDF2014 stage – that was the most exciting race I’ve ever watched #hopeallOK.”

An American in France

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