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Tour de France

Deceuninck-Quick-Step boss Lefevere: ‘Cobbles don’t belong in the Tour de France’

Patrick Lefevere pushes back against inclusion of gravel and pavé in 2022 Tour de France, saying organizers 'are looking for thrills.'

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It’s not the high-altitude climbs or long-time trials of the 2022 Tour de France that Deceuninck-Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere is complaining about. Instead, he has beef with the cobblestones.

Despite commanding a team stacked with some of the most experienced cobble-bashers in the peloton and without having a GC rider to protect, Lefevere said Thursday that pavé has no place in a three-week race.

“The cobblestones? They could be good for us, but they don’t really belong in a grand tour. A strip or two, three… But eleven? There are many. You can already lose the Tour there. Don’t win, but lose,” Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad. “Also the gravel. Stick to road cycling. I can understand that they are looking for thrills, but still.”

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A trip to the cobblestones of the Roubaix region was one of many features that set tongues wagging when ASO released details of the 2022 Tour de France this week.

Along with the 19 kilometers of cobbles in stage 5, the Tour will see trips to gravel summits and windswept coasts in a fiendishly tricky three weeks.

Like last year, Lefevere indicated Deceuninck-Quick-Step would hunt stages rather than trying for GC with double world champ Julian Alaphilippe or young hotshot Remco Evenepoel – all making his objection to the rough stuff more strange. Any time losses on the cobblestones wouldn’t dent the team’s overall ambitions.

Lefevere is likely to send a team including Tour of Flanders champ Kasper Asgreen, perennial pavé-pummeler Yves Lampaert, and skills supremo Alaphilippe to the Tour next summer. With a roster as deep in classics-talent as theirs, Deceuninck-Quick-Step would be the team to look to for a win on the roads to Arenberg next summer.

The inclusion of cobblestones in a grand tour always provokes wails of frustration from at least a handful of sport directors and scores of waifish climbers. But why does Lefevere take issue with the Tour’s serving of pavé?

Perhaps it’s that the endlessly hilly tricky served up by ASO mitigates the chances of his stable of sprinters. Reigning green jersey winner Mark Cavendish and resurgent Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen will have just five, or maybe fewer, chances to charge for glory.

“Do I see many sprint stages? Not so much,” Lefevere said. “And if they race like in previous years, two of them will also fall away. So a sprint or four, five, but it is the riders who make the race.”

Not all the directors in the peloton were so outspoken when they saw the cobblestone stage revealed by ASO on Thursday. Jumbo-Visma boss Richard Plugge said that he’d simply have to pick his squad to suit the race.

“I’d rather not see cobblestones in a grand tour. It is something for specialists,” Plugge said. “On the other hand, a grand tour rider must be able to handle everything, including cobblestones. And our guys can do all of that. That gravel doesn’t really work for me either.”

“Coppi and Bartali would have been happy with some asphalt at the time,” Plugge joked. “And now we have it everywhere, we are going to ride on gravel.”

It’s not the first time Lefevere has pushed back against terrain that should suit him.

He also railed at the inclusion of dirt roads in the redesigned Paris-Tours to the extent that he refuses to send his team into the historic race. Presumably, Lefevere won’t go that far in July 2022.


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