Fabian Cancellara has predicted the cobbled fifth stage of this year’s Tour de France will be “chaos” and could have an important say on the overall outcome of the race.
The 155.5km day contains 15.4km of cobblestones over nine sectors on a flat but treacherous route more commonly seen in spring Classics such as Paris-Roubaix.
The pavé, as the cobbles are known, are largely unchartered territory for general classification contenders such as Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, with the battle for position always vital and the threat of crashes and mechanical problems ever-present.
And Cancellara, a cobbles expert, believes that the risks will only be amplified by the fact the stage comes in a traditionally nervous and accident-strewn first week of the Tour.
“In the Tour, I think there will be more chaos going into the cobbles than for a race like Paris-Roubaix,” the Trek Factory Racing rider said. “The stage is quite short. It is going to go full gas and the first sector is going to be chaos.
“This Tour de France shows once again that there are not just the climbs and the time trial that could make decisions about the final result in Paris.
“For certain people, the race could be over really fast. For Froome and Alberto and [Vincenzo] Nibali, we will see. I am sure it is going to be tough. Who is better, I don’t know. I saw [Alejandro] Valverde race a few Classic races in spring and he was going well. It is going to be interesting.”
Trek Factory Racing will target stage wins at this year’s Tour, with Cancellara eyeing stage five and stage 20’s time trial, and Frank Schleck and Haimar Zubeldia aiming to make an impression in the mountains.
Schleck in support role
Frank’s brother and 2010 Tour winner Andy will consequently take up a role as domestique, while veteran German Jens Voigt, who is the oldest rider in the race at 42, will aim to infiltrate as many breakaways as possible.
Trek Factory Racing team manager Luca Guercilena said: “Our main goal is competing for single stages. We have Frank in good shape, with the support of Haimar, who I think will be competitive on the climbs. They will have the support of Andy. It is not a secret that we also have some characteristics for the cobblestoned stage.”
Andy Schleck has suffered a rapid fall from grace since winning 2010's Tour and finishing second in 2011, but was philosophical about his demotion from team leader to support rider.
He said: “I wasn’t always a team leader. I was quite a long time a helper for others. I believe I still have good capacities and good legs. I go into the Tour with lower ambitions than the year before. My first objective is to help Frank and Haimar [Zubeldia] in the climbs, but there is also still a good chance for me to go for a stage.”