Contador: Tour cobbles will be harder in 2014

Spaniard previews stage 5 of the Tour de France and says the stones deserve respect

Two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador previewed the Tour de France’s fifth stage Monday, taking a close look at the nine cobblestone sectors facing riders on the July 9 leg between Ypres, Belgium, and Arenberg, France.

“I have studied especially the material [equipment], which is most important here. I already knew some sections from 2010 [stage 3 of the 2010 Tour traveled over a number of cobbled sectors], but clearly the most critical will be the first sections, because there the group will still be very large and there will be more fighting to get into in front of the group. After there will have more selection,” Contador said in a press release. “The feeling on the cobblestones has been good, but we must not forget that this is just a workout, it’s not the race, and there wasn’t rain, which can complicate everything. The wind will also be very important.”

Contador rode the final 75 kilometers of the stage Monday after previewing the first portion in the car. A day after Paris-Roubix tore through the fields of northern France, he said the cobbles demanded respect. The Spaniard lost 1:13 when the race last encountered the cobbles, leaving the day 1:01 behind Cadel Evans and 1:40 behind then-leader Fabian Cancellara.

“The hardest part will be the entry into the sections of pavé. Some of them have a lot of sand and the bike skates a lot. Care should be taken,” he said. “I felt good on the cobbles, but you have to face this stage with respect and being aware that we’ll be here with 100 kilometers in the legs. I think it will be a more difficult stage than in 2010, because the first sections are more complicated.”

Contador returned to Spain following his reconnaissance. He will not race again until the Critérium du Dauphiné in early June, which will be his final race before the Tour.

“After finishing the [Tour of the Basque Country] and seeing this stage, I can say that I have achieved the objectives of the first part of the season,” he said.