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Tour de France

Former Paris-Roubaix winner on Tour de France cobbles: ‘I feel for the GC guys’

Mathew Hayman: 'I feel for the GC guys who prepare months, years even, and be faced with a stage like that.'

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Don’t ask Paris-Roubaix winner and Team BikeExchange-Jayco sport director Mathew Hayman to be objective about the question of where it’s appropriate to include dangerous sectors of pavé in the Tour de France.

On one side, the cobble-basher inside him says, yes, bring it on.

As a former rider and sport director, however, he can understands the apprehension that is building among the GC contenders going into Wednesday’s key stage.

“It’s a tough question. I am standing here because I love Roubaix, so yes, we should do them,” Hayman told VeloNews. “But I feel for the guys who prepare months, years even to hit their peak form for one Tour, or potentially two or three of the top of the career, and be faced with a stage like that.”

Hayman, who won Roubaix in 2013, said it’s important to remember that the pavé sectors featured in the Tour are not the most notorious sections featured in Roubaix.

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That’s not to say it’s going to be easy, but Hayman said the top pros should be able to handle themselves.

“We see time and time again we see that these guys are actually very good riders. They can handle their bike, they often end up riding a very good stage,” he said. “Maybe we shouldn’t protect them as much as we do because they can handle themselves and they often do quite well in that stage.

“I do feel for those guys having to go through that,” he said. “You do want to see the best riders ride GC and win the Tour, and I would hate to see guys crash out.  I do like to see them tested on all different terrain.  I’ve always admired the GC guys who can keep their cool for three weeks and it will be a test there for them.”

Hayman admitted he is “sitting on the fence” on the question, because as a cobbles specialist, he says a chance to race for a stage win over the bumpy roads during the Tour is a special opportunity.

The last time the cobbles hit the Tour, however, he was on helper duty to steer Adam Yates across the stage in 2018.

“We had Adam that year and I am very proud that we got him got him through that stage, and he was on bunch time that time that day,” he said.

Hayman said it was tough to watch the breakaway pull clear and he was ordered to help protect Yates on the decisive stage.

“I could see the winning break go down the road, but my hands were tied,” he said. “I wasn’t the only one. A few could ride the stage, the rest of us were on team duties. You take pride in doing your job, and that was a bit tricky to get through that stage.

“Adam was a guy who spent months preparing for that Tour, and that was a day we helped him navigate him through that, so that was a good day,” he said. “It hurt to watch the stage sail down the road and you couldn’t do anything.”