Colombian to race at E3 Harelbeke and Dwars door Vlaanderen to be ready for the cobbled stage at the 2015 Tour, but should the pavé have a part to play in cycling's biggest race?
Giro d’Italia 2014 winner Nairo Quintana will race at the semi-classic Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke in 2015 as he prepares for a stint on the cobbles on stage four of the 2015 Tour de France.
The climber hasn’t raced before on the flemish cobbles in his career, and rather than take a coveted space on Movistar’s team for the monuments Paris-Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders, the team will place Quintana in the 1.HC level Dwars door Vlaanderen and the WorldTour level E3 on March 25 and 27 respectively.
Movistar team manager, Eusebio Unzué told Het Nieuwsblad that the team would be checking out the cobbled sectors of the Tour de France route after the Colombian had competed in the two races.
But whether the cobblestones of northern France and Flanders should be included in cycling’s most prestigious stage race divided opinion at last year’s Tour, particularly after Chris Froome crashed out on the stage (though he failed to make it to the cobbled sectors). Even cobbles specialists like Roubaix champions Fabian Cancellara and Niki Terpstra reportedly dismissed the idea of having them in the race.
“I think cobblestone races are made for classics” Terpstra told Cyclingnews at the Tour last year. “For a classic you can chose to ride over the stones, but if you participate in the Tour de France you don’t volunteer to take the cobblestones.
“It’s just the organisation that puts the cobblestones in and you have to survive it. If you see that Chris Froome is out because of that stage, I don’t think that we can be happy about that.”
Others however, are pleased with inclusion of the cobbles and the test they bring, with the 2015 Tour set to feature 13.3km worth of pavé over seven sectors.
Etixx – Quick-Step directeur sportif, Brian Holm told Cycling Weekly that the inclusion of the cobbles is good for the race, and provides better test of an all-round team.
“Who said it should just be about mountains?” he said, “I think it has to change from year-to-year.
“Nibali was the best [last year] and he had the best team and won it. Maybe there has to be cobbles and maybe not, it might be crazy every year but I think it’s good for the race.”
Moreover, Holm says that the most dangerous part of the stage wouldn’t be riding on the cobbles themselves, but the fight to get onto them in the first place.
“The whole fight to get there…you can ask Chris Froome about that. Before you even get there it’s going to be crash, bang, boom. It’s like a bunch sprint.
“It’s not that difficult on the cobblestones as people think, I think the most difficult part of the cobblestones is getting into the sectors in a good position.
“To say it’s dangerous is just because you can’t handle the bike or cope with the stress, so I really think they should be there.”
Tour course director, Thierry Gouvenou also praised the inclusion of the cobbles, particularly after last year’s stunning stage in the wet which saw Lars Boom of Belkin take the stage win and Vincenzo Nibali gain two minutes over Alberto Contador.
“If we go past them, we won’t miss them out,” explained Gouvenou to Cycle Sport in late 2014. “I think it brings something new to the Tour, another image.
“The riders are aggrandised; when they finish that stage, when they crossed the line, they looked legendary in the eyes of the spectators.”