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Even the Tour de France is not immune to the gravel boom hitting cycling.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme said fans can expect to see more gravel and dirt roads in the near future of cycling’s biggest race.
“That’s perfectly logical,” Prudhomme told AFP. “There is an evolution in the sport and we are not insensitive.”
The use of unpaved roads is nothing new to road racing. In fact, the Tour’s earliest mountain climbs were held over gravel and dirt roads long before they were paved more than a century ago.
The rediscovery of gravel and dirt roads in modern road racing began more than a decade ago in Italy, with the Giro d’Italia’s Colle delle Finestre in the Italian Alps and the one-day Strade Bianche race in Tuscany.
The Tour recently has used sectors of gravel and will race over several kilometers of dirt road in stage 10 over the Plateau des Glières.
Prudhomme pointed out that this year’s Paris-Nice featured sectors over limestone-packed roads and said there are more projects in the works.
“We want to use everything that can exist to make the race interesting and make sure to surprise,” he said. “We know we can surprise the teams one year, two years, maximum three years.”
And this year’s Tour features the ultimate in throwback roads with stage 9 and more than 20km of cobblestones across northern France.