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UAE Emirates sport director slams inclusion of treacherous cobble sector in Tour de France

Tadej Pogačar says he will race Paris-Roubaix 'one day,' relishes shot at racing on cobbles at Tour de France: 'It can go terribly wrong or it can go OK.'

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Tadej Pogačar got a taste of the cobblestones Monday for what lies ahead in this summer’s Tour de France, but his UAE Emirates sport director is not too happy about it.

Aart Vierhouten, a sport director at UAE Emirates who accompanied Pogačar in Monday’s recon, strongly criticized the inclusion of one particular sector of cobbles that will be featured in stage 5 at the 2022 Tour.

“The second sector runs downhill. It’s crazy,” Vierhouten told Sporza of a 1,600m stretch from Eswars to Paillencourt. “I would never have included that in the course if I was an organizer.”

Also read: Tadej Pogačar previews the Tour de France cobbles

Vierhouten accompanied Pogačar on Monday as he studied the cobbled sections, and the Dutch former pro went so far as to describe the sector as “life-threatening,” and that its inclusion runs contrary to the sport’s recent push for safety.

“It is madness. Diving down on cobblestones at 60 to 65kph, and that in the hectic pace of the Tour. Actually, this cobbled section does not belong in any competition,” he continued. “The cobblestone sector descends. There are no fall-back options to the left and right of the road. This is at odds with the security that has been so emphasized lately. I don’t understand why this sector is on the route. You are only going to look for dangers with it.”

The sector was also featured when the Tour last raced on the cobblestones of northern France in 2018.

Those comments will only heighten tension inside the peloton about the return of the feared cobblestones for the 2022 Tour de France.

Some riders, sport directors and team managers believe the cobblestones do not belong in a race like the Tour, saying that many of the Tour-specific riders do not have the experience or even the body type to safely handle the jarring punishment of the rough French pavé.

Others counter that cobblestones are part of racing, and every rider should be able to handle them.

Reporters on the ground asked Pogačar what he thought about the inclusion of the cobbles into the 2022 route, who hesitated briefly before answering.

“They can do whatever they want and we will always race it,” Pogačar told Sporza. “Maybe it’s a bit hectic, especially in the Tour, but what we can do?”

The two-time Tour winner, however, said he is relishing a chance to race on the famed cobbles despite some caution from his sport director.

“I am looking forward to this stage, it can go terribly wrong or it can go OK. For sure you do not win the race here on the cobbles, but you can lose it,” he said. “It’s important to check the course, to get a feeling of the cobbles, and it gives you peace of mind, and go more relaxed into the Tour for the first week.”

Tadej Pogačar says he will race Paris-Roubaix ‘one day’

Pogačar said his Monday preview of the 11 sectors of cobbles to be featured in stage 5 at the Tour de France was worth it.

“Now it’s a different bike and equipment, and it was not so bad. We did two and a half hours,” Pogačar said. “It gives me motivation and confidence from what we did at Flanders. I really like this race. Sunday was one of the best days on the bike, and it gives me a boost of confidence for the Tour and the next years of my career.”

And what about racing Paris-Roubaix?

Pogačar said not this year.

“One day I will do it, but not so soon. Next year, maybe not,” he said. “I’ve never done it before, so I don’t know. The hardest [monument] to win for me will be Roubaix and San Remo.”

Click this link to see the Sporza video.