The Tour de France’s third stage to Arenberg will rattle many riders with its sectors of cobbled roads. Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck is particularly worried because a slip could spoil his chances for an overall victory, a ride made rougher due to a crash last week in training.
“I was training with [brother] Fränk last Saturday and there was a bump that I didn’t see. I was afraid in the beginning, but I forced myself to ride in the national road race the following day,” explained Schleck.
“My hands are bruised and they hurt on the pavé yesterday [Wednesday] – my legs too!”
Schleck won the time trial title prior to his crash and then finished second in the road race, helping his brother win.
They both start the Tour de France tomorrow in Rotterdam, where they will face an 8.9-kilometre time trial prologue. It’s not the prologue, though, that has Andy Schleck worried, rather the 213-kilometre stage to Arenberg.
The stage takes on some of the cobblestone sectors used in Paris-Roubaix every spring. There are seven sectors in total – 13.2 kilometres – and the last one through Haveluy leaves little time to recover before the finish, only seven kilometres.
Schleck will have the help of one of the most experienced teams, Saxo Bank. His Tour de France team-mates account for three Paris-Roubaix wins: Fabian Cancellara (2006 and 2010) and Stuart O’Grady (2007).
“I know for Fabian it will be fun, but it won’t be fun for a lot of riders. It will be spectacular, but dangerous,” said team manager, Bjarne Riis.
“I think there will be a lot of crashes even before we get to the cobbles. Everyone wants to be at the front and there will be a fight to be there. If hell breaks loose, there can be a lot of time differences.”
To limit any time differences Schleck rode most of the cobble sectors twice. In addition, he previewed all of the mountain stages last month.
A lot is on the line for Schleck. At last year’s Tour de France, he finished just over four minutes behind Alberto Contador and ahead of Lance Armstrong and Sky’s Bradley Wiggins.
“I am not here only to fight Contador, there are many others. I am ready to fight and to be at the front. I tasted it last year and I want to do it again, maybe on a higher step.”
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