Stage six’s final kilometre included a section of steep gravel beyond the finish line used in the last three visits. Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) won from an escape and Geraint Thomas (Ineos) attacked over the gravel to gain some time.
“If had been five to 10 kilometres of gravel, it would’ve had a big impact,” Christopher Juul Jensen (Mitchelton-Scott), a helper for Adam Yates, told Cycling Weekly.
“It was steep but the gravel was relatively compact. Obviously, it’s more difficult for the little guys to get grip. But it created a bit of different atmosphere, I don’t think anyone had anything against it.”
“There was more rolling resistance so that just made it harder,” Ineos sports director, Nicolas Portal explained. “It made everything quite hard… It was a nice finish, to be honest.
“You should ask the riders if it was worth it, but at least this wasn’t a long gravel section and there is less risk to have a puncture. It wasn’t really gravel but earth.
“It was the right balance, I think. The new 1K was harder, it made the race harder. This kind of gravel made good pictures and everything fine without annoying the riders.”
“I think it doesn’t make too much difference,” Mikel Landa (Movistar Team) added. “Just the last part was different, so that was it. It was nothing.”
In 2018, the Tour de France included cobbled sectors used in Paris-Roubaix each year that made more of a selection. The gravel seemed to have little affect on the overall race.
However, it made for a change from a normal summit summit finish and briefly created some stunning images. RCS Sport has included much longer sections in its Giro d’Italia going over the famous Strade Bianche.
“It would be more fun if it was going to rain,” Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), a former mountain biker said.
“It was OK, it was not a stage for me. For me it was about finishing the stage.
“It could be different if they had more gravel, but it was not the real gravel that you have in Strade Bianche. But I’m not doing these stages for the overall, so it’s OK.”
“The different organisers are good at creating these stages for a show, last year the Tour had the Roubaix stage,” added Juul Jensen.
“So the Tour doesn’t lack those stages that create a show. I don’t think yesterday changed the way the teams looked at the race, just a gimmick, but it didn’t have any negative impact on the race. It looked good.”