Alejandro Valverde may not have ridden Paris-Roubaix last weekend, but if he had then he may well have been towards the sharp-end of affairs if his recon of some of the cobble sectors ahead of the Tour de France is anything to go by.
Valverde travelled to northern France on Tuesday to take a look the final 110km of stage nine of the 2018 Tour de France, which features many of cobble sectors used in Paris-Roubaix and finishes outside the Roubaix velodrome, and posted his ride on Strava.
Riding with Movistar team-mates Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, Imanol Erviti, Marc Soler and Jasha Sütterlin, you might think that Valverde might want to take things easy to avoid any falls ahead of the Ardennes Classics, but instead he absolutely smashed it as he covered most sectors faster than riders in Paris-Roubaix had managed a few days earlier.
Granted, the riders on Sunday had a few extra kilometres under their belts before reaching the cobbles, but Valverde's times are still pretty extraordinary for a man who will be looking to climb to his sixth Flèche Wallonne on top of the 26 per cent Mur de Huy in just a few days time.
The Movistar riders joined the Paris-Roubaix route at around the 77km to go mark, with Valverde immediately tearing it up on the cobbles at Brillon where he narrowly missed on the KOM, held by Edward Theuns from 2015, but was still 15 seconds quicker than anyone in the 2018 edition of Paris-Roubaix.
At the next section at Sars-et-Rosières, Valverde was only two second off Niki Terpstra's six-year-old KOM but was 10 seconds faster than Greg Van Avermaet a few days earlier, before he eased off the gas a bit to only beat Wout van Aert and Alexander Kristoff's time by a couple of seconds on the Bersée sector.
Unfortunately the Tour de France does not use the five-star sectors at Mons-en-Pévèle or the Carrefour de l'Arbre, but Valverde was still able to get his teeth into a four-star sector at Camphin-en-Pévèle where once again he set a scintillating time, only being bettered by Yves Lampaert and Tim De Clercq from this year's race.
So just as Vincenzo Nibali was able to thrive on the cobbles in the 2014 Tour de France, should you be looking forward to another climber finding success on the pavé in 2018.
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