A day to bring the yellow jersey contenders out in cold sweats as the Tour returns to the harsh cobbles of northern France for the first time since 2010.
The rutted farmers’ tracks of north-eastern France usually feature as part of the Paris-Roubaix one-day Classic- otherwise known as the ‘Hell of the North’ due to its exceptional brutality. Yet this year the Tour will cross the same inhospitable terrain, using nine sections of the surface the French call ‘pavé’.
Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and the other featherweight men of the peloton will not relish the particularly tricky sectors of the Carrefour de l’Arbre and Mons-en-Pévèle, both of which are given the highest, five-star difficulty rating by the organisers of Paris-Roubaix. One general classification rider who should be in good shape following the stage is Michal Kwiatkowski- the Pole will be shepherded across the cobbles by Niki Terpstra, the most recent winner of Roubaix.
To realise the danger that this stage presents, you need only bear in mind that in 2010 the Tour crossed much easier sections of pavé- hard enough, though, to knock Frank Schleck from the race with a broken collarbone.
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