Team Movistar’s Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde will race a likely wet and sloppy Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday as a way to prepare for the Tour de France, saying it’s difficult to recreate racing the cobbles in training.
The forecast shows rain and a high of 7°C in Waregem, where the 180-kilometre Belgian semi-Classic finishes.
The Tour de France this July features Paris-Roubaix’s famous cobbles on stage nine. Mikel Landa, who forms part of Movistar’s three-pronged Tour attack with Valverde and Quintana, raced the cobbles in E3 Harelbeke on Friday.
“I think it is important that Nairo and I ride in Flanders ahead of the Tour’s stage to Roubaix on July 15, which contains quite a few cobbled sectors,” Valverde told Het Nieuwsblad.
“You can not imitate that in training. “You just have to throw yourself into a race like this.”
The pretzel-like Dwars door Vlaanderen course includes a couple of two-kilometre cobble sectors and the rough paving stones on two of its 12 climbs, the Taaienberg and the Nokereberg. Ahead of the finish in Waregem, they must cover another 800-metre sector.
“Riding in Flanders perfectly fits in my schedule between the Volta a Catalunya and País Vasco,” Quintana said. “I look forward to it.
“On TV, these races always make for a fantastic show, and that is also the case when you are in the middle of it. Even though I’m not made for it, I really like it.”
Quintana already raced the E3 Harelbeke and Dwars door Vlaanderen in 2015 in preparation for the Tour. “It didn’t really bother me then, even though I did not contend for a moment,” he said.
Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), third in the 2017 Tour de France and second in 2016, will also race in Dwars on Wednesday to prepare for the 2018 Tour. The Tour includes 21.7 kilometres of cobbles over 15 sectors.
“I’m not going to take any risks if it rains. It’s not worth it,” Valverde said of Wednesday’s race.
“Though I ride in this WorldTour race without the slightest pressure, without the least ambition, I’ll try to make a race on the cobbles. If it stays dry, I’ll try to mix in the game itself. These are all great races with an audience that is very enthusiastic about the sport.”
Valverde, winner of the Volta a Cataluyna last week, will return to race the Ardennes Classics later in April.
“Before I stop, I would like to ride the Tour of Flanders once,” 37-year-old Valverde added. “I weigh just 61 kilograms, and so you skip from cobble to cobble stone, which makes it even more difficult.
“Don’t ask me how I could ride from here to the Kwaremont, racing in Flanders is one big adventure for me.”
Grand Tour star and recent Milan-San Remo winner, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) will race in the Tour of Flanders for the first time on Sunday as part of his perpetration for the Tour.