Cobbles inspection for Contador, no Ardennes classics

Alberto Contador is skipping the Ardennes classics, but he will be in France on Monday to inspect the cobblestones featured in this year's Tour de France

COMPIEGNE, France (VN) — Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) steered clear of Paris-Roubaix, but he was slated to arrive in Compiegne, the start town of the “Queen of the Classics,” on Monday to get a taste of the cobblestones.

Hot off winning the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), Contador will inspect the route of stage 5 in this year’s Tour de France that features pavé. Contador will ride the cobble sectors with Tinkoff-Saxo teammate Niki Sorensen.

“It’s important to see the cobbles. He will get the feeling of how they feel,” Tinkoff-Saxo sport director Philippe Mauduit told VeloNews. “Alberto is OK on the cobbles. At the 2010 Tour he was pretty good, especially compared to the others.”

The inclusion of the cobbles in the Tour for the first time since 2010 has raised anticipation and apprehension among all the yellow jersey contenders.

At that Tour’s foray into the Roubaix cobblestones, Andy Schleck finished in the lead group across the cobbles, guided by teammate Fabian Cancellara; Contador finished in the second group, about one minute down, after a flat tire. Fränk Schleck crashed on the cobblestones that day, breaking his collarbone and ending Tour. (The stage report from that day is posted here; full results from that day are posted here.)

The majority of this year’s GC contenders have been trekking north to ride over the cobbles. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) even raced in two Belgian semi-classics to get a taste of the pavé.

With 15.4km spread over nine sectors, the cobblestones are the real deal, and Stage 5 will prove decisive. It’s almost certain that someone will lose major time, and all chances of winning the Tour.

“Every grand tour has one or two stages when you’re not going to win, but you can lose it,” Mauduit said. “What can we do? The organizers have decided to add it the script, so we must do the best we can, and make the movie.”

Tinkoff-Saxo is flying high following Contador’s stellar debut to the 2014 season. He’s either won or finished second in every stage race he’s started, with victories at Tirreno-Adriatico and Basque Country, and second places at the Volta ao Algarve and the Volta a Catalunya.

Despite having top form, Contador will not race the hilly Ardennes classics next week.

“He’s not a machine. He’s had a heavy spring, he needs time to breathe,” Mauduit said. “After a rest, he will train at altitude, race the [Critérium du] Dauphiné, and then the Tour.”