UAE Team Emirates sports director Aart Vierhouten expressed his concern with certain sectors of the fifth stage of the Tour de France this summer, after he joined Tadej Pogačar in exploring the cobblestones of northern France on Monday during a recon ride.
Stage five of the Tour de France includes 11 cobbled sectors along the 155km route from Lille Métropole to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, but Vierhouten seemed convinced the second cobblestone sector - a mile-long strip from Eswars to Paillencourt - is too dangerous to race on.
"The second cobblestone section runs down, something like this does not belong in any competition," Aart Vierhouten told Sporza (opens in new tab).
"It's madness. Diving down on cobblestones at 60 to 65kph - and that in the hectic pace of the Tour. Actually, this cobblestone section does not belong in any race. I'm surprised. I would never have included that in the course if I was the organiser.
"The cobblestone strip slopes down. There are no alternative options to the left and right of the strip. That is at odds with the safety that has been so emphasised lately. I don't understand why this strip is on the course. You are only going to look for dangers with it."
According to Vierhouten, the fact that it is only the second cobblestone sector in the race makes it more dangerous. He suggests the peloton won't have had time to stretch out, exacerbating the issues of lack of run-off to avoid potential hazards and the speeds at which they will be riding.
"Everyone is still full of adrenaline after the sprint to the first cobblestone section," Vierhouten adds.
"On the last cobblestone sections, there may be a group of 40 riders riding together. But on those first sections you will burn a whole peloton over it. It is life threatening."
The DS continues, highlighting how the aforementioned cobbled sector previously featured early on in a stage of the 2018 Tour de France, before eluding to the interchangeable weather conditions of northern France.
"Fortunately it was dry then,” said Vierhouten. ”In case of rain it is completely irresponsible to let the riders thunder over that descending cobblestone road."
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Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.
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